A New Lease of Life
Desperately in need of a liver transplant, Clare Bond entered the 2010 Bupa Great Manchester Run to help raise awareness about organ donation.
But rather than taking her place on the starting line of the UK’s most popular 10k, the very same day she instead found herself being prepared for major, life-changing surgery.
Fast forward 12 months and Clare has a whole new lease of life. What's more - as the picture above shows - Clare (centre) is proudly standing near to the finish line of the 2011 Bupa Great Manchester Run with husband Paul and best friend Donna Musso, having completed the event in a superb time of 67 minutes.
There's just no stopping Clare these days - but it's all a far cry from the situation she found herself in back in May 2010.
Then, the 34-year-old had been waiting for a liver transplant for nine months after being diagnosed with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) – an advanced liver disease that gave her severe tiredness, jaundice, abdominal pains and almost constant itching all over her skin.
Even so, she was determined to beat the odds and finish the race, and was packing her running gear on the Saturday night before the big race on 14 May when the phone rang – amazingly, a donor liver was available at St James’ Hospital in Leeds. However, there was a snag.
I'm constantly amazed by what I am now able to achieve. I can honestly say I've never been as proud of myself in my entire life.
Clare, who lives at Hindley in Wigan, said: “The liver had been earmarked for a baby but I was first reserve if there was a problem – though they said that would be quite unlikely. So I had to hurriedly unpack the running kit and Paul and I set off for Leeds.
“They were hoping to be able to divide the liver in two so it would help the baby and go to another hospital for someone else but they couldn’t split it in the end and the next morning at about 7.45am they said it was going to come to me – around the same time I should have been in Manchester ready to start the run.
“I was incredibly lucky to get the liver, especially as I hadn’t been on the waiting list all that long. When they called me on the Saturday night, they said that I was really only on stand-by and that I probably had only a 5% chance of being given the liver. It was just one of those things I suppose – but it’s given me a new start. I’m so grateful.”
A year on and while Clare's not back to full fitness, she's in good enough shape to take on the challenge around the streets of Manchester city centre.
She added: “It’s been tough going trying to regain my fitness. I’ve lost 18lbs since the operation and the rehab has been tough at times but I’ve always been a fit person and so I’m determined to make the most of this fresh start.
“While I love running, I also enjoy swimming and cycling and things like pilates so tend to cross train more than anything. I did the Bupa Great North Run in 2008 and 2009 and had a fantastic time – the atmosphere is just incredible.
"So I was really looking forward to Manchester. And it didn't disappoint - it was a fantastic day. I ran with Paul and Donna and they were both great support, especially towards the end.
"I felt really good in myself and definitely had more to give. It was lovely to run with a liver that works though my legs felt very heavy as I've lost so much muscle - so that was the toughest part. I ran the whole thing and was really proud I didn't have to walk, which I thought I may have had to.
"When I was in hospital and I went into rejection I imagined myself crossing that finish line a 100 times and for the last year I've never stopped seeing it, even during my worst pain and my darkest hours, so to see this finish line come into view took my breath away.
"I'm constantly amazed by what I am now able to achieve. I can honestly say I've never been as proud of myself in my entire life.
“To anyone who thinks they can't, try thinking you 'can' That's all I've ever done over these last three years. Have goals and see them. You'll amaze yourself. Of course, what I've been able to achieve has only been possible because of Organ Donation - the people who register themselves to be organ donors after their death.
"I just wanted the chance to live a normal life and I feel like I'm finally getting there.”
Donna, who works as a development officer with a health insurance company, was just 28 when she was diagnosed with PBC after feeling unwell over the previous 18 months.
She said: “The first sign I had was that I was really itchy – it was so bad I couldn’t sleep. The doctors thought it was eczema or scabies at first. But I was putting on weight, couldn’t exercise and didn’t look well. As I’d always been so fit, I just didn’t know what was wrong.”
She was finally diagnosed with PBC, an auto-immune disease where the body fights itself.
“There is a stigma,” she added. “People think it’s due to alcohol abuse but this condition is not linked to alcohol. It can be hereditary, but no one in our family has it. It can also be caused by extreme stress – maybe it was triggered by my dad dying when I was 16.”
There is no cure for PBC and so Clare was put on the transplant register – but not even that could stop Clare running.
She said: “I was completely shocked by the diagnosis but I just felt determined to get on with it. It brought out my fighting spirit. There was no way I was going to drop to part-time hours at work and I decided to keep myself as fit and healthy as possible.
“We got a dog, Murphy, and we go off on really long walks – and I started running again (I’d been a really keen runner at school but hadn’t done a great deal of running in the intervening ten years or so). I even did the Bupa Great North Run twice, which is quite abnormal for someone with my condition. People with liver disease just don’t take part in events like that.”
Clare's story is so inspirational she was invited to be part of the official launch of Manchester's Great Day of Sport in 2011 - featuring the British Gas Great Salford Swim and Powerade ION4 Great CityGames Manchester along with the the Bupa Great Manchester Run - in the company of two of the golden girls of British sport, heptathlete Jess Ennis and open water swimmer Keri-Anne Payne.
And she's planning on more life-affirming challenges too, including a return trip to the North East to tackle the 2011 Bupa Great North Run.
She added: “Taking part means so much to me because I’ve had so many challenges. It’s been an amazing couple of years really. My health really deteriorated in the 12 months leading up to the 2010 Bupa Great Manchester Run. I was absolutely determined to complete the race in 2011 and was just ecstatic to cross the finish line. But when you are a competitive person like me there are always going to be more challenges to do."
Clare is hoping to raise around £1600 for the Leeds Liver Support Group and the Infertility Network UK charities and anyone who'd like to boost Clare's fund-raising efforts can take a look at her JustGiving