Worthing 10k: Runner will be battling breathing issues caused by facial palsy as he races for the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity
A cancer patient whose breathing is affected by facial palsy is running the Worthing 10k to raise money to support the Royal Marsden’s life-saving research programme.
Ronnie Green, 67, of Robson Road, Worthing, took up running after he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, known as CLL, in 2006.
He thought it was the best way to maintain fitness to help him when the disease struck and since then he has continued, despite a heart bypass in 2014 and more recent treatment for skin cancer.
With a target of running all four local 10ks every year, Littlehampton, Bognor, Worthing and Brighton, Ronnie was hit with a new setback ten weeks ago, while training for the Worthing 10k on Sunday, October 10.
He said: “Suddenly, I found my face had drooped on one side, similar to Bell’s Palsy. The diagnosis is that the facial nerve has been damaged beyond repair and no longer functions.
“I have run various 10ks in the past, sometimes for charity. This one is different because I am not firing on all cylinders at the moment. So, whereas I would have found past 10ks relatively comfortable, this will be a challenge to get round.
“I am currently experiencing a facial palsy which affects all the nerves and muscles on the right side of my face, including breathing well, which is kind of needed for a decent pace whilst running. It also affects my smile.
“I have never been fast, with a personal best of 63 minutes at the Brighton 10k and an average of around 70 minutes for my 10k runs. Due to the palsy, my pace has dropped significantly, so my aim for this run will be 90 minutes.
“Hopefully on the day, with the help of my stepson Paul Jackson, I can force a little more out of me, though not too much - that’s why Paul is there as my unofficial pacemaker.”
Whatever happens, Ronnie’s supportive wife Nicolette will be cooking the pair a fry up breakfast when they finish as a reward.
Ronnie said the Royal Marsden had been ‘brilliant’ with all his health problems over the years.
When he was diagnosed with the chronic blood cancer CLL in 2006, he was told there was no cure.
“I was on what they term watch and wait, so regular blood test monitoring, until 2018, when it was decided I needed treatment due to swollen lymph nodes and a high count of lymphocytes in my blood.
“I had chemo, which kept it at bay again until August 2020, when I then was given a newer therapy. Unfortunately, CLL is a disease which weakens the immune system and therefore can lead to other cancers. That indeed happened to me in December 2020, when I found I now had skin cancer, SCC, which is squamous cell carcinoma.
“That meant my CLL treatment was stopped whilst I battled this new foe. I had a radical neck dissection to remove the cancer in lymph nodes on my neck.
“The surgeon had to remove my accessory nerve, which means my shoulder dips and doesn’t work quite the same. I also lost a salivary gland and the facial nerve was damaged. This was followed by extensive radiotherapy for six weeks.
“However, in June this year, I had another scare, as more cancer was found and I had yet another neck dissection in the same area. This resulted in the remaining salivary gland on that side being removed.
“That was a scary time, as if the cancer had returned despite the radiotherapy, it was a very aggressive cancer. Thankfully, recent scans have shown that at the moment, I am doing okay with it.
“I also had a heart bypass in 2014 as a preventative measure, as I collapsed on a training 5k run and they found I had a blocked main artery, so that resulted in open heart surgery.
“In all of this, I have been wonderfully cared for and supported by the Royal Marsden. I have also had a lot of exploration and surface face excisions by the amazing dermatology team at Southlands Hospital.
“The facial palsy affects my eye drooping, my breathing through my nose on that side and my mouth drooping, making it difficult to eat food. On the plus side, the CLL is in remission though I have a blood test coming up next week - fingers crossed.
“All during these health issues I have tried as far as possible to keep the running going. I don’t actually enjoy running that much but I do enjoy the achievement afterwards and am very aware of the health benefits.”
Visit www.justgiving.com/rmhrun to support Ronnie and donate to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.