Meet Roger and Doreen

Roger and Doreen Ottway aren’t your standard parkrunners. They’re both in their 70s. Doreen has just had knee surgery. Roger has bowel cancer. They were first enticed down to the Nottingham 5K Your Way group in 2019 by their daughter soon after Roger had been diagnosed with cancer and have since become an integral part of the group.

In the early days they walked it holding hands and I will always remember their sprint finish the third time they came, in order to finish in 59.59! As Doreen’s knee became more limiting and Roger’s treatment became more challenging, they stopped walking and instead joined the group as volunteers, cheering on the other walkers and runners at their regular marshall spots they have made their own.

Last April, out of the blue, Roger announced that the following month he was going to walk the 5km again rather than volunteer. Doreen looked as surprised as me when he told us his intentions. But, true to form, the next month, on his 78th birthday, he walked the 5km with a peloton of his family and friends walking alongside him. I don’t think anyone has ever had bigger cheers at Forest Rec parkrun.

A month or so after that Roger was told his treatment had stopped working and he may have just 6 months to live. Roger and Doreen wanted to share how they have chosen to live their lives with this knowledge and in this blog they do just that. As a couple they focus on what they can do, not what they can’t, and they fit more into their weeks than most of us do in a month. Roger and Doreen show us all how to live. To really live. And they also show that sometimes, no active treatment is the best treatment. Thank you Roger and Doreen for reminding us how to make the most of life.

‘If Roger can, I can’. Jackie Laird, October 2022.

Roger’s story.

In 2018 a young consultant told Doreen and I that I had bowel and liver cancer. Quite a move from being anaemic to being told I have full blown cancer and, as many of you will have experienced, an enormous shock to your system. Our reaction was “Right, so we’ve got cancer, how do we get rid of the little blighters?” For in no way were we going to let it win.

Months of chemo followed and then two major operations within 2 months of each other and then we were told that this had all been successful. But then of course it came back. This time it had spread to the lungs. More chemo followed and the outcome of this was that the cancer had stopped growing so some more, less powerful chemo treatment followed to keep this under control.

“What do you do when you’re told you may have just 6 months to live? You live. You really live.”

Roger Ottway, March 2023

Some months later (and we are now in the latter part of 2022) and following a CT scan we got the news that the cancer had returned to the liver (bugger)! The option was to take up another course of chemo, or join an experimental treatment plan, neither of which carried much hope of success and would make me ill and more susceptible to other bugs.

Our choice was made. Doreen, our daughter Emma, and I decided that if this was the end I would rather die well than ill. So, we opted for no further treatment and decided that we would make the best of what of life was left.

And by golly we are! There is no moping around, no crying (we did that in November). Because travel abroad insurance was such a rip-off, we are eating our way round the world. We do this with family and friends in the many and varied restaurants we have in Nottingham and in fact wherever we happen to be.

And I’m also staying fit enough to walk the 5K Your Ways with my wonderful family and friends and, along with grim determination, I/ we will continue for as long as we are able. And when I can’t manage the walk I will join Doreen and the other 5k volunteers and continue to cheer on all the marvellous parkrunners and the 5k team. What is there to do but continue to fight and live?

I’m writing this in the hope that if we are told we are ill, this shouldn’t stop us living a good life. God bless every one of us.

Doreen’s story. How Cancer affects more than just the patient

As our wonderful 5K Your Way walking friend, Debs, once said, ‘Cancer is like a pebble dropped into a lake, the ripples spread far and wide’. When Roger was first diagnosed with bowel cancer following a blood test we took it in our stride. He had the operation and the follow up chemo and we got on with our lives. Roger was lucky that he didn’t have any nasty side effects from the chemo so we made the most of every day between chemo sessions. At this point our lives started to revolve around chemo every three weeks; blood tests, PICC line flushes once a week and regular scans. But we could still get out and about.

After several more operations and loads of chemo a scan finally showed that the little nasties had spread to his lung and reappeared in his liver and there was no more treatments they could recommend. Our daughter, Emma, has been with us to most of the appointments with the oncologist; if she couldn’t make it because of work, we had her on speaker phone so that she could ask any questions she wanted and so we didn’t have to relay all of the information to her.

She was with us when we received the news that the cancer was now terminal and we all wept a good few tears but Roger has always said ‘That’s it, lets get all the paperwork etc done and put away in the cupboard and we will get on with living’. So we sorted Respect Forms, Power of Attorney, changed all Electricity, Gas and other utilities so my name was included and filed them away until such time as they were needed.

Emma had to then tell her husband and teenage son the news and we were surprised at the difference it made to how our grandson, who had always been loving, was with Roger. He had been a typical boy, not into hugs etc, but now every time we meet we get an enormous bear hug from him.

Roger decided he wanted to be open with all our friends and relatives and so we told everyone and stressed that he did not want to be treated any differently and that if they had any questions to come and talk to us. They were all stunned but have been amazing. They are not afraid to ask how he’s doing or whether we need anything and so life goes on as before.

My first words when I wake are ‘Are you okay?’. The answer so far has always been, ‘Yes, I’m fine’, so the day can go on as normal. I do find if I can’t sleep some nights I lie awake listening to his breathing and thanking God that he is still well.

As we now can’t travel abroad our family has decided that we will eat our way round the world instead. So far we have done Turkey, Mexico, France, Vietnam, China, India and Greece and still many more countries to go.We don’t know how long Roger has and that is out of our hands, but we can control how we live our lives and we are determined to make each day full of happy memories. So that is what we are aiming to do.