Breast cancer survivor calls on others to follow her fundraising lead

Michelle Dench on the run

Michelle Dench, who's raised a fortune for Macmillan since they helped her through breast cancer treatment. - Credit: Michelle Dench/Macmillan

A breast cancer survivor who completed the London Marathon while undergoing chemotherapy - and has gone on to run ultra-marathons - is hoping to inspire others to put on their running shoes for the Macmillan charity.

Michelle Dench, 46, was a keen runner before she fell ill in 2016. She started running when she ran the Crouch End fun run in 2010 with her then-young daughter. 

But it was the support she received when undergoing cancer treatment at the Whittington that pushed Michelle to complete more and more challenging runs. 

She told this newspaper: "I applied for the marathon knowing I would still be having chemotherapy and I was offered a place while I was having radiotherapy. Macmillan helped me with a personal trainer, it was massive for me - I hadn't done much running for six months.

"There's no way I could have done that marathon without their support. I had written on the back of my legs: '2016 equals chemotherapy, 2017 equals Virgin London Marathon.'

"So many people talked to me."

Michelle, who has raised thousands for the charity, said the 2017 marathon was a hugely emotional experience, and she turned up to a hospital appointment to continue treatment the next day with her medal. 

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She had been bitten by the running bug years earlier though, she said, when she did the fun run, and her illness and recovery - and fundraising - provided the perfect push to inspire her to tackle more marathons and even ultra-marathons. 

An ultra-marathon can be 50 or 100 miles. Michelle and a friend completed a 100-miler in 2019. 

Michelle said her running had "spiralled" after she first ran with her daughter, with whom she occasionally still does 5km races.

She said Macmillan was invaluable during her cancer treatment at the Whittington, and she felt compelled to give back to the charity.  

"Tracy, my Macmillan nurse, would just keep coming to give me leaflets about the courses I could do, the resources available. They were such a big part of me getting through that process."

Michelle is now looking forward to getting her running shoes back on and hopefully, getting back to big races - including another ultra-marathon - as lockdown eases. 

To take part in this year's London Marathon - slated for October 3 - on behalf of Macmillan, see