As we approach the end of the year, one that I won’t be too sorry to see the back of, I’ve been reflecting on what I’m calling ‘the summer I wasn’t expecting’. At the end of May I was diagnosed with breast cancer, which was a complete shock as I didn’t have any symptoms – thank goodness for
Aside from fantastic support from my wonderful family and friends, and from work colleagues, I have no doubt that getting out in the fresh air in local parks and green spaces played a huge part in my recovery from surgery and radiotherapy, both physically and in terms of my mental wellbeing.
It’s at this point that I have to declare an interest as I work for a national charity – Fields in Trust – which champions and supports parks and green spaces by protecting them in perpetuity. Many people don’t realise that local councils do not have to provide parks and green spaces, and with so
many competing priorities, it’s no wonder that sometimes green spaces are sold for residential or commercial development. And once lost, they are lost forever.
So, as parks and green spaces are very much part of my working life and I see first-hand the benefits they bring to both individuals and communities, I try and make use of the spaces near where I live.
Like many people I have some great childhood memories of my local park, from playing in my favourite playground to learning to ride a bike, and I think deep-down we all appreciate the importance of parks and green spaces, but sometimes I think it takes something major to realise exactly how vital they are to our health and wellbeing.
I have so many good memories from the summer while I was undergoing my breast cancer treatment, including daily walks in my local park, a long walk with a friend over Epsom Downs, with the reward of a pub lunch at the end, and celebrating ‘school’s out’ at the end of term. Sitting in the
sun, with good friends and a glass of wine, while watching our children playing football – what’s not to like? We also looked after a friend’s dog one weekend, and being a lively collie she helped us to explore all corners of the park – taking us to parts we hadn’t ventured to before.
We also spent a few days in the Isle of Wight, and it was good to go back to the recreation ground, where three years ago I started and finished a walk around the island. While I was walking 100km with three friends to raise money for Cancer Research UK, in memory of parents who died of cancer, little did I think that I would be a beneficiary of their work just a few years later!
Lots of people use parks and green spaces as a ‘home away from home’ to socialise with friends, relax and picnic. And I did just that one lovely sunny afternoon, with my extended family, and the visit to one of our beautiful local parks included us all taking the chance to visit the memorial bench, in memory of my uncle, which is where the photo above was taken.
My other main reason to visit a park during my treatment and recovery was to watch my daughter play football. Watching with the other parents and friends makes the girls’ matches a social occasion, and as we’re told that regular exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer, I’m pleased
that my daughter has started what I hope will be lifelong participation in sport.
I passionately believe that taking exercise outside in parks helped with my recovery from breast cancer – just breathing clean air and enjoying the scenery made me feel better and helped me to cope with the treatment.
Thankfully I’m now fully recovered, and would like to thank everyone at The Royal Marsden Hospital for their compassionate care. I’m back at work and determined to keep walking in my local park.
And although winter has definitely arrived, that’s no reason not to get out and about and enjoy the parks and green spaces near you – I certainly will be!