After losing her twin boys, and later her fiancee to cancer, Theresa Kennedy started running – and she hasn’t stopped.
The 39-year-old has clocked up 12 half marathons in Australia, the US and UK in the last six years – raising almost $20,000 for the children’s hospice who helped her after the loss of her boys and $9000 for the Can Too Foundation for cancer research.
She’ll share her journey – and raise more funds for Can Too – at a high tea at Wollongong’s Novotel on July 29, ahead of her biggest challenge yet. She’s gearing up to take on Blackmores Sydney Marathon in September before jetting to California for the Disney World Dopey Challenge where she’ll run over 78km in four days.
“My first half marathon took me two hours and 46 minutes and I thought I’d never run again,” she said.
“Then I saw my partner Karim who’d been standing on the finish line in the freezing cold the whole time - in so much pain as he only had a few months left to live.
“And I thought ‘If he can stand there that long waiting for me with what he’s going through, then running for me is nothing’.”
It’s been a tough road for the former Albion Park woman, whose move to the UK 16 years ago dramatically altered the course of her life.
“Karim and I met in the UK but in 2009 we were planning to move home, back to Australia, when he had sudden neck swelling and was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer, a rare type of head and neck cancer,” she said. “He underwent a six-hour operation and initially the prognosis was good as they thought they’d isolated the cancer.
“Then he started having pain in his ribs and we were told the cancer had spread.”
However they were told the specific cancer was not normally aggressive and during a break in chemo and radiotherapy, the pair conceived – identical twins.
“This time it was a good shock that we received, after so much bad news,” Ms Kennedy said. “Yet from early on there were complications, with one of the twins – Liam – not getting enough nutrition. At 20 weeks he passed away, though I had to carry him for the rest of the pregnancy.”
Tragically for a couple who’d gone through so much, complications at the birth led to the passing of their second son Mayen, in March 2012. One year later, on March 19, 2013, Karim died at the couple’s home.
“It was six weeks after giving birth that I went out for a walk. I didn’t plan to run but I suddenly started to run – I think there was just so much emotion in me and that was my body’s reaction to it,” Ms Kennedy said.
“Something lifted and I felt a release and relief. And because Karim had been so proud of me for running, for raising funds for the hospice that helped us through our grief, when he died I knew I had to carry on.”
She moved back to Australia and gained support from the Can Too Foundation, a charity which has inspired thousands to achieve their goals through run, ocean swim, and triathlon training programs that fundraise for cancer research.
“Can Too has this month reached the $20 million mark for funds raised,” Ms Kennedy said. “I’m proud to have played my part in that, to help further the research that is so vital. Karim did not survive but that research helped him – when one treatment didn’t work, we had the option of another. It gave us hope – and if you don’t have that you don’t have anything.”
Ms Kennedy feels that facing those challenges is leaving a lasting and positive legacy for Karim and for her boys. “My loss is both my downfall, and my reason to go on,” she said.
For tickets for the high tea email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the event site on Facebook.