Strong by name, strong by nature
Just four years ago, Rose Bay Secondary College PDHPE teacher, Hayley Strong, was a young, newly married woman with the world at her feet.
Two months after her dream wedding her world came crashing down. Following up on some odd bruising and inexplicable tiredness, she was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia (acute promyelocytic leukaemia or APML). Only 15 years ago APML was one of the most deadly forms of the disease, with only one in three patients surviving more than three years.
Due to research and medical trials in treatment since then, 80 per cent of sufferers are now expected to live more than five years, and Ms Strong hopes to outdo that statistic too.
Now in remission, having completed a gruelling round of chemotherapy in December 2010, Ms Strong set her sights on regaining her pre-cancer fitness and raising funds for cancer research.
On 16 September she achieved something that would have been almost unthinkable four years ago. She ran the Sydney Marathon, raising money for the Cure Cancer Australia Foundation.
"After the first 10 kilometres I thought 'how am I going to run for another three hours and how does anyone do more than one?' But then I had told so many people I was doing a marathon and knew my students would give me hell, so that I knew I needed to finish!" she said.
Despite leg cramps and exhaustion, Ms Strong finished in four hours 26 minutes to ecstatic family and friends waiting at the finish line.
"I decided after my diagnosis that I needed to live life to the fullest and challenge myself as you never know when your time is up," Ms Strong said. "Now I can tick doing a marathon off my bucket list; next will be a triathlon and/or the Kokoda trail, but I need to give my legs a rest and do some ocean swims, first.
"I have enjoyed my journey and have made some great friendships through Can Too and I know I can do basically anything (within reason) if I put my mind to it."
Ms Strong raised $2,890 towards cancer research for her amazing effort.
Can Too is a not-for-profit program that inspires people to get fit while at the same time raising money for Cure Cancer Australia Foundation through endurance events like 10km, half and full marathon runs and ocean swims.
For more information on both Can Too and the Cure Cancer Australia Foundation go to: www.cantoo.org.au or www.curecancer.org.au.