Jackie Scully got married on the Cutty Sark on the morning of the London Marathon in April 2017. She then ran the marathon with her new husband, her father and her cousin in aid of Willow and Breast Cancer Care.
Hear Jackie’s inspiring story below:
Below is a transcript of some of the interview with Jackie. Listen to the full interview above or on iTunes.
Nisha: You haven’t always been a runner, so what got you started, and why did you decide to run the London Marathon this year?
Jackie: I would classify myself as a ‘non runner’ because I had my leg rebuilt 10 years ago. Three years ago my partner proposed to me just three weeks before I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, rather than wedding planning and all the exciting things you expect to be doing after an engagement I was faced with 9 months of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, IVF treatment and lots of other things. To try and get through it I chose something really hard for my body, and that was running!
I started running during chemotherapy, I went on a run with my dad, and I ran my first ever 10k just a week before my last chemo to prove to my body, it can take a lot of things from me but it doesn’t have to define me – I’ve been running ever since!
I’m so grateful to have got through it (the London Marathon) and to have raised a good chunk of money for charity in the process.
Nisha: Why is running a challenge for you?
Jackie: I have a congenital hip dysplasia which basically means my hips are too shallow to support my leg. It was something I developed at birth and lived pain-free in my teenage years, it was only when I was about 24 I started to present pain and I had my pelvis sawn in three and rebuilt as a result so I have metal in my hip down the left side. I’ve learnt to walk three times now in my life. I remember talking to my surgeon and I said, ‘is there anything I can’t do after this surgery?’ and he said, ‘Jackie, we didn’t rebuild you so you could wrap yourself up in cotton wool.’ Obviously I am not entirely sure my interpretation of that has been quite right but I hope when I see him in June he’ll be suitably proud of all that I have achieved with my distance running.
Nisha: You ran with your husband, father and cousin after getting married at Cutty Sark- what was your wedding morning like?
Jackie: A bit like sports day. I was up at 5am. There was no time to do any traditional wedding day stuff. I got into my running wedding dress, which was designed for me by David Seaman’s wife, Frankie (Dancing on Ice professional), and she designed a dress I can run in. We all turned up at around 7am at the ship, and it was so lovely, there were only around 15 of us, it was really relaxed.
Lots of people were taking photos and posting them on social media so we could get the message out there as soon as possible. We even had BBC Radio London on the top deck doing Facebook Lives with us. It was an incredible, incredible morning, and to follow that with six hours of running around the London streets with the most amount of encouragement and support I have ever encountered in my life was truly humbling.
Nisha: Was your wedding different to what you were expecting?
Jackie: Roll the clock back three years ago and I had this idea that I was going to do this edible wedding in the countryside- I love baking – I was going to make everything, from the invites to the centrepieces to the cake. In a way I’m grateful Duncan waited 13 years to propose to me because the wedding I thought I wanted actually wasn’t the wedding I really wanted. Cancer forced me to look in the mirror and look at myself and realise what it is that I actually want out of life, and having meaning and purpose and being able to do something that helps other people came to the forefront.
To be able to gift our wedding back to the people who gave us the opportunity to celebrate our engagement was such a hugely humbling and amazing thing, and for someone who didn’t run 3 years ago, to think that the best day of my life will forever have a marathon involved in it makes me laugh!
Nisha: You ran for two charities, Willow and Breast Cancer Care – why did you choose these two?
Jackie: Both charities gave me back my smile and they gave us the chance to celebrate our engagement at a time that could have ripped us apart. Breast Cancer Care was there with its leaflets and information from day one, and I met friends for life through the charity. They were the first charity I ran with and they gave me so much support and the confidence to believe a non-runner with a hip full of metal could actually be someone who can raise money for charity through running.
Willow sent us on a special day, and they are the UK’s only charity that gives special days to 16 – 40 year olds. What’s so special about them is not the fact that they give special days to people, but it’s the fact that they remind people with serious illnesses that they can actually be something more than the patient they feel they are. It meant that I could be the person Duncan fell in love with and be reminded of who I am and find a way back to the real me and not the person that hospitals make you feel. That was such a humbling and transformative part of my treatment.
The experience from Willow was to go on the Orient Express. It was incredible! I was on chemo at the time so I could barely taste, and to go and have this 5 course meal and taste wine for the first time in ages and actually feel bread. Chemo basically means you can’t taste things like bread, they taste a bit like wallpaper, but I felt I could taste bread for the first time in ages. Those moments are moments that will stay with me for the rest of my life, and they reminded me that there was an end in sight and I could actually recover myself and thrive because of all the treatment I had been through.
To think that we could gift our wedding back so that those two charities can do the same for thousands more people in the future, it was a no brainer for me and something my husband gladly agreed to do.
We really hope the money raised will go a long way to supporting people and helping them smile through serious illness.
Nisha: Your Twitter bio says you are ’volunteering and smiling your way through every day.’ – you’ve been through so much- how do you stay positive and motivated each day?
Jackie: It was early on in my diagnosis that I realised that I could either sit there and count the days to the end of treatment and almost pause my life or I could make every day count, and I remember I was sat in the hospital and the mastectomy nurse said to me – as I was scratching around for my blackberry trying to check my work email – she said, ‘Jackie, what are you doing every day that you would be proud to put on your gravestone, because if you aren’t doing something every day, you’ve not got your life right. It was sobering at the time, I kind of thought, ‘hold on a second, I’ve had life-saving surgery we don’t need this kind of death-bed mentality’ but it really stuck with me. I started volunteering weeks after the diagnosis, I was doing talks about breast cancer awareness in young women with no hair because it was actually more impactful than with hair, and it made me feel alive! The people I have met along the way through volunteering, they are like-minded individuals who you don’t meet when you just go through life and work with people and maybe socialise with people. These people really have the same values as me. It sounds selfless but in many ways it’s selfish because I have got so much out of all the volunteering. I’m a happier and more rounded person than I’ve ever been. While I would say cancer isn’t a gift, the opportunity to look in the mirror at 32 was, and I feel that I am now on a better course than I ever have been.
Nisha: Phrases like ‘live for the moment’ are easy to say but are hard to do. Any advice for people to make the most of their lives as well as keep up with their responsibilities in their day to day lives?
Jackie: We all have to look after ourselves, we all have to work and earn money and sustain ourselves, so the idea that every day is something we can seize and make the most of is virtually impossible. What I would say, and what has changed me completely is this idea.. have a list, not a bucket list, I refuse to call it that, but a brighter life list of all the things you want to achieve in life. I reflect on those and I believe that the more you write things down and actually hold yourself to account, the more likely you are to fill your life with adventures. Three years ago I was so busy rushing through life I had actually forgotten what it was to live and actually enjoy myself. I worked very long hours, I randomly made presents for people at home that I would send.. I remember the Christmas I was diagnosed, I’d made 200 individual handmade gifts for people but at the expense of seeing my friends and going out for dinners, meeting people for their birthday, all of those things. I got my priorities completely wrong and what I now do is I give my time to people, I go and see people, I socialise with people, I share moments with people and experiences because when I was sat in that hospital bed not knowing how long my life would be, all I had to draw on was my memories and I am now about creating as many happy memories as I can and inspiring other people to do the same. Material items, thinking that success is defined by having a big house and a great career – it’s not that at all, it’s about being able to face yourself in the mirror, being able to have wonderful moments and cherish time with loved ones, and actually feel like you are getting the most out of life, even if that isn’t every day of the year.
Listen to the podcast to find out some of the things on Jackie’s Brighter Life list!
Nisha: Instead of relaxing on a beach on your honeymoon you and your husband have chosen a slightly different honeymoon- can you tell us about it?
Jackie: We are trekking the Great Wall of China! We are going for 9 days. ‘go big or go home’ is my new mantra – I felt that most people that do crazy things for their wedding will relax on their honeymoon and I thought, ‘no if we are going to do this we are going to do this properly and we are going to push our bodies to the limits to show other people that there is a way through in life. There was a time when I had my leg rebuilt, I was at the bottom of stairs I couldn’t walk up, I found running to a bus virtually impossible, and so to think that someone like that has turned her wedding into a marathon and her honeymoon into a trek is something I hope will encourage other people to believe that whatever challenges they are facing right now, it doesn’t have to be the end and there is a brighter future out there if you test your edges and see what you are capable of.
Nisha: I love to end each show by finding out some good news- what’s the best news you’ve heard so far this week?
Jackie: It’s quite personal, basically one of my closest friends and her husband and two children are going to relocate, he’s secured a permanent position which is really rare in his industry. She said to me when I was diagnosed, ‘Jackie I’m really glad it was you’, which is obviously quite an odd thing to say to someone. But she said, ‘Jackie, what you have done is shown us all, without us all having to go through a serious illness, that life is there for the taking and that you must do what you can to get the most out of it.’
You can continue to follow Jackie’s adventures on her blogs: