Running the Comrades Marathon was high on Regina Gosebo’s bucket list. A year and a half after completing breast cancer treatment, she made this postponed dream a reality.
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Regina Gosebo (44) lives in Benoni, Gauteng with her 16-year-old son.
Regina started walking in 2015 to lose weight. “I weighed around 102kg so I changed my diet. My parents would walk around Westdene Pan so I joined them but eventually I got bored of walking and started running, then 5km became 10km which turned into 15km and then I challenged myself in different races,” Regina says. Once the running bug had bitten, Regina joined a running club where her team mates encouraged her to do a 42km race. “My first 42km was the 2017 Soweto Marathon. My goal was just to finish the race but little did I know that my time qualified me to compete in the upcoming Comrades Marathon. That was when the seed was planted, I wanted to run the Comrades Marathon.”
In April 2019, Regina ran the Two Oceans Marathon in 6h30m. “After that race, I knew I was ready for the Comrades. My mom played a big role as she was the one who told me I needed a bucket list. She loved tennis and wanted to go to Wimbledon and she did. The Comrades was that one thing I wanted to do,” she explains.
A lump on the road
Regina was set to run the 2020 Comrades Marathon, she had qualified, registered and was in training. Then she felt a lump in her breast and was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her bucket list dream was not yet to be. She jokes that when the race was cancelled due to COVID she was secretly happy as it wasn’t only her who couldn’t run it.
When Regina was diagnosed in November 2019, she cried, “I cried because I couldn’t take part in the Comrades but I cried more because I had breast cancer. I was scared. I knew my mother’s journey, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and years later after being healthy she had a recurrence in 2014 which spread to her bones and then lungs. So, I knew what was ahead of me. My biggest fear lies in that it can come back,” she says.
Regina had a port insertion in December then started chemotherapy in January 2020 and finished in June. In August, the lumpectomy with immediate reconstruction took place and six weeks later, 30 sessions of radiation commenced. She was then prescribed letrozole, an aromatase inhibitor, for five years as well as goserelin injections every three months.
“My mother was supportive even though she was going through her own treatment. She once came with me to get my results and when she heard there was a small spot of cancer on my liver that is when she went hysterical and called my dad to say that I was very sick. My doctor assured us that the spot was so small, the chemotherapy would likely kill it. But I think this scared my mom due to her knowing what the journey is like when cancer spreads,” Regina adds.
Regina stayed with her parents while she went through treatment but once she completed treatment in late 2021 she moved back home.
The passing of her parents
In July 2021, Regina’s father passed away. “It was so sudden, he got ill in March and he thought his ulcers were getting worse.
He eventually went to a specialist and was diagnosed with colon cancer. But due to him also having Type 2 diabetes, after one session of chemotherapy, his blood glucose was so high, he was put on insulin, and then his health deteriorated and he was in and out of hospital, then he passed away,” Regina explains tearfully.
“I think my father’s death took a toll on my mom as she said she always thought she was going to pass before him. From the day my father passed, she slept on his side of the bed.”
Regina and her siblings wanted their mom’s helper to be a full-time live-in helper. But her mother declined and said she wanted Regina’s son to live with her rather, which he did.
In July 2022, Regina got the all clear from her oncologist but sadly in September 2022, Regina’s mother was put on palliative care and Regina moved back in with her mom, and the helper then also lived-in with them.
“It was a stressful time as my mom was using oxygen and load shedding started so we had to get an inverter. In the beginning it was hard, and my mom was too scared to sleep in case we couldn’t get the oxygen connected in time but eventually we got used to quickly changing bottles and she started to sleep without worry,” Regina explains.
Sadly, Regina’s mother passed away this February.
2023 Comrades Marathon
Regina says during treatment she would sneak in a run here and there. She explains, “When I went for blood tests the day before a chemo session, I would walk, run, walk, run until I got there. The nurses told me I should rather drive but honestly it helped me.”
Regina started running properly again towards the end of 2022. “It felt like I was starting afresh and it was heavy on my body but the mentality was there. I ran my first 42km race in January this year and when I finished in 4h45m I registered for the Comrades,” she says.
And so the training began for the next six months. Regina had the goal of finishing the race still standing in the 12-hour bus and that is what she did; her time was 11h51m07s.
“It was hard and I struggled with cramps. At times, I saw the pavement and wanted to sit down but then I would think of my mother and that I told her I was going to run the Comrades so now I had to.
The camaraderie of the fellow runners and the bus driver helped me a lot, we would sing, laugh and motivate each other. By 60km I think I was hallucinating but then at the last cut-off I woke up and that’s when I started to cry, realisingI was nearly there. From there I savoured every minute.
To hear all the screams of congratulations was amazing and when I crossed the finish line, I was still standing. I could tick running the Comrades Marathon off my bucket list. It was an experience of a lifetime, I just wish my parents were there,” Regina says.
New bucket list goal
Regina has set her eyes on a new goal of getting the Comrades back-to-back medal next year. “You get this medal if you run the Comrades two consecutive years in a row, and I’m going to get it.”
Regina says the Comrades and going through breast cancer treatment are the same in that when you finish either of them, you realise you can face anything that comes your way.
MEET THE EDITOR – Laurelle Williams
Laurelle Williams is the editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words.