Published on !3 December 2019
For most people facing cancer, sport is the furthest thing from their mind.
But when Leisa Foad was diagnosed with aggressive non-Hodkins lymphoma, affecting her spleen, stomach, pancreas and left lung, she decided to take up cycling.
And just nine months after completing treatment, the midwife and ward manager at Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, tackled the 100-mile Ride London event, raising more than £1,000 for charity Lymphoma Action.
Leisa, who will turn 50 in January, said: “I used to run, and I’d completed the London Marathon previously for Cancer Research UK.
“But I found it hard during the cancer, so instead I took up cycling, as well as walking.
“I would walk the dog as much as I could and I loved being able to get out on the bike.”
Leisa was diagnosed last summer, after visiting the doctor with stomach pains she initially suspected was Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS.
Blood tests suggested it could be an infection or bowel disease so she was referred to a specialist by her GP, but a scan revealed a possible lesion on her spleen.
She was booked in for an operation to remove it but, during the procedure, surgeons discovered cancer which had spread to her other organs.
Leisa said: “I hadn’t had a day off work ill since having flu more than 20 years ago, so it was quite a shock.
“But I am quite an optimistic person and I always try to look at the positives.
“Lymphoma responds well to treatment and I had amazing care from the surgeon and the whole team of nurses, doctors and domestic staff on Brabourne ward and the Cathedral unit at Kent and Canterbury. They couldn’t have been more caring and supportive.”
Leisa was treated with chemotherapy and immunotherapy and finished treatment last November, returning to work in December last year.
A scan in January was positive and it was repeated in July, when doctors told her she was now in remission.
She said: “I have a number for the Macmillan nurse specialist and I can ring if I’m worried but other than that I’m free to get on with my life.
“I think it is always in the back of my mind, and every twinge or niggle I have a moment where I wonder if it’s coming back.
“But I don’t think about dying. My goal is to outlive the five-year free prescription card they give you.”
Leisa has other goals too – including completing her third London challenge, the Serpentine swim.
But she also cherishes the little things, such as walking the dog in the woods or family days out.
She said: “We used to put things off until another day, but that day is never guaranteed so now I try to grab things while I can.
“I treasure the time I spend with family and friends, and I’m doing a job I love.
“My girls still need their mum so I have no intention of going anywhere.
“The figures they use vary, and at one point I was told my prognosis might be anything between 50 and 90% of surviving the next five years. But I’m determined to outlive that card!”