It had been just more than three hours since the half-marathon runners took off in The Northern View Cannery Road Race on Sept. 14 when Doreen McKay approached the final upward hill of her 21-kilometre journey along the Port Edward streets. With a determined push, she ascended up and over the finish line.
While she appeared exhausted, and of course to some extent was, after what McKay has gone through in life, that climb was nothing.
McKay grew up in Kitkatla, moving to Prince Rupert in 2000. Athletics were a part of her life from a young age.
“I’ve pretty much ran all my life,” McKay said. “I played basketball when I was a little girl, I’ve been pretty active most of my life.”
This all changed four years ago however when McKay made an all too common discovery.
“I found a lump in my right breast. I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Stage 3,” McKay said. With no history of cancer in her family, McKay was even more in shock that she had been struck with the disease.
It took some time for McKay to fully process the diagnosis. “It was scary,” McKay said. But after having some time to think about it, she knew there was only one thing she could do.
“It took maybe a month or so, and then I said to myself I’m going to fight this thing as hard as I can,” she said. “After the shock wore off I got myself into fighting mode and I said to myself I’m not going to let this win.”
That fight, of course, is one of the most difficult parts about cancer. McKay underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment for nine months. She also had a lumpectomy to remove the cancer from her breast. Medication followed, which is a further drain on a person’s energy.
Key to coming out on the other side is a strong support system. Through her four children, four grand-children and partner John, McKay had this in abundance.
“My love of my life John has always been with me, all the way through. Through all the dark times and the hardest times in my life, he kept me going,” she said.
|Doreen McKay’s spirit is not one that can be kept down. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
One day, McKay got the call she had long been waiting for — the cancer was gone.
“When my doctor phoned me and told me, I couldn’t believe it,” McKay said. “I was so happy.”
After some of her more exhausting treatment was over, McKay turned to an old past-time to help in her recovery process. The Rupert Runners were only too happy to welcome her in.
“One of my friends asked me to come run with her on a New Year’s Day run,” McKay explained. “We had people there that were talking about the running club. I was off work then so I needed something to do and I needed to keep active. That’s when I joined, and I’m happy I did. I have a lot of new friends there.”
“Running was something I could get used to and I liked doing because I’d done it most of my life.”
|Doreen McKay stretches before taking off on an afternoon run. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
McKay echoes what is a constant in the Prince Rupert recreation circles, that being the amazing spirit and comradarie of Prince Rupert’s running community.
“I love all my running friends, they keep me going,” McKay said. Nowhere was this more evidenced than the day of the Cannery Road Race itself. While McKay approached the finish line, several of her fellow racers and friends ran out to meet her, providing an escort for the final stretch. The effort made for an emotional scene at the finish line as the group all crossed together. Runners in Prince Rupert leave no one behind.
“That was my toughest run ever,” McKay said. “I was happy to get to the finish line and my friends were there to meet me. It empowered me so much.”
|Doreen McKay begins the final climb to the finish line at The Northern View Cannery Road Race. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)|
Results and placements are not an issue for McKay. That isn’t what her time on the road is about.
“It’s the getting out there and getting to the finish line. It keeps me strong, it keeps me running everyday for my life basically. I’m cancer free for three years now, and it just keeps me fighting everyday,” she said.
“I’ve had a lot of side effects that could have held me down, but I fought through and I’m still going.”
“Me running everyday is me still winning,” McKay said.
Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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