Back from the brink

OLIVIA WANNAN
Last updated 05:00 07/02/2013
Sarah Christie will return to marathon running at Round the Bays run on February 17 after battling ovarian cancer
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
SPRING IN HER STEP: Sarah Christie will return to marathon running at Round the Bays run on February 17 after battling ovarian cancer and a 1.2-kilogram tumour.

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Eight weeks after having a 1.2-kilogram tumour removed, Sarah Christie will complete Wellington's Round the Bays fun run.

The Island Bay mother of five, who is a former Round the Bays half-marathon winner and national half-marathon champion, was diagnosed with malignant ovarian cancer after she noticed a protrusion on her stomach late last year.

At first, her doctor thought Mrs Christie was likely to have a benign cyst but when the ultrasound came back, the news was not good.

"You could see she [her doctor] was visibly upset . . . She told us it did not look very good," said Mrs Christie, who had a melanoma scare in her early 20s.

"It was the size of a baby's head, coming out of your stomach - I just wanted them to take it out."

When a specialist operated on December 27, he found the tumour was a contained one, meaning it could be removed without leaving cancer cells behind. It also meant Mrs Christie was unlikely to need chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

She credits her extended family, including her parents and her sister - who breastfed her 8-month-old son, Paddy, during the nights Mrs Christie was in hospital - for getting her and her husband, Matt, through it.

"My family basically moved in and took over and did everything. Matt and I shut down, we didn't function any more - we spent time with the kids but we couldn't make them sandwiches, we struggled to eat ourselves.

"But we didn't want them to take the children away," she said.

"To think that you're not going to see [your children] grow up was awful."

She felt "incredibly lucky" she never felt physically ill and, after taking a few weeks' rest, was able to return to pounding the pavement.

After putting off seeing the doctor at first, wondering if the symptoms she noticed were simply from having had five caesarean sections, she now strongly urges everyone with any health niggles to get checked early.

Mrs Christie's GP, Julie Kimber, said she had seen only a handful of such large malignant tumours. "Ovarian tumours can get quite large without many symptoms." Mrs Christie had shown "amazing" spirit over her treatment, Dr Kimber said.

Mrs Christie will run the Round the Bays event on February 17 as part of a team from the Malaghan Institute, an organisation involved in cancer research.

Despite her competitive past, winning was not the aim this year, Mrs Christie said. "I'm running for different reasons now - I'm not out to break records."

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She plans to take the run fairly easily but cannot guarantee her mind will not kick into its naturally competitive mode.

"My head still remembers but my body's not quite right."

- The Dominion Post

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