Cancer survivor keeps running
“Cancer has slowed me down, but has not stopped me.”
That’s the message Carolyn Soemarjono had pinned to her top as she set off on a half marathon in Singapore last year.
She could only walk it, instead of her preference to run the race. But it was a brisk walk, and considering she had completed six months of chemotherapy just weeks before, it was “quite a feat, for me” to finish the race at all.
The bubbly Australian, who lives in Singapore with her husband, Radi, and daughter, Leah, remembers being the only one consistently eating salads for lunch at the office where she worked as a human resources professional.
She didn’t smoke, ran regularly and even helmed her firm’s health and wellbeing programme.
“But there I was, 42, in good health and diagnosed with cancer — it was just surreal,” she says.
“Things don’t stay the same. One minute you’re healthy and running marathons, the next moment you’re on the bed and can’t move for months.”
Carolyn, who only started running in her late 30s, ran her first marathon in 2007, in Berlin, Germany. Despite vowing that she would never do another 42-km race again, she shaved more than an hour off her time in the Tokyo Marathon in 2011.
Three months later, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
But the former amateur photographer, who now runs her own photography business, didn’t take her illness lying down.
She had signed up for the 21km event in the Standard Chartered Marathon in Singapore before knowing she had cancer. And though she tried to take walks every day even while undergoing treatment, the chemo and the drugs often left her barely able to walk, much less train for the race.
Still, she decided that she would walk the 21km and raise money for the Singapore Cancer Society through the marathon’s Run for Good programme.
Not only did she finish the race, Carolyn raised $6,000 for the charity.
“Raising money for the cancer society felt such the right thing to do. I felt so lucky and so fortunate that I had the means to take time off from work. I had the means to ensure that my medical bills were paid. I had a lot of support around me, financially and emotionally.
“The Singapore Cancer Society helps those people that don’t have that level of financial or emotional support. So I really believed it was the number one cause I could help to support … and I’d love to do that again.”
And that’s just what she’s doing. Now in remission, Carolyn’s tackling the half marathon and raising funds for the Singapore Cancer Society again this year.
And this time, you can bet she won’t be walking.
Watch other runners’ personal stories on why they Run for Good