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Saskatoon runner with colon cancer says ’you’d be surprised what you can do on chemo’

"I’ve got my accountant’s coat on. It’s not a running coat by any means," said Brent Senger Saturday morning, as people dressed in bright reflective colours arrived at the Saskatoon running store Brainsport.

This year, Senger was sitting out Brainsport’s BYOC Christmas cookie run, an annual tradition in which members of the store’s running club share in shortbread and a long sprint along the city’s bridges and Meewasin Trail system.

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Senger had good reason to be taking it easy.

Last January, the grain farmer-turned-marathoner and club member was diagnosed with colon cancer that spread to his liver.

Ten months of chemotherapy followed, during which Senger continued to participate in Brainsport’s twice-a-week group runs, albeit in an easier class than the advanced one he had run in.

"I’m not trying to set [personal bests], I’m just trying to maintain my muscle mass and bone density [during] these treatments, so it’s been really beneficial and motivating," he said.

The camaraderie from fellow runners has helped too.

"It’s a break from it to come out and visit and have a few laughs."

To fellow runner and store owner Brian Michasiw, Senger is an inspiration.

Brian Michasiw owner Brainsport Saskatoon December 2017

Brainsport store owner Brian Michasiw. He says in past runs with the club, Senger was ’always in a positive mood and I know he had to work at that.’ (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

That’s why the club honoured Senger on Saturday with its Ric Hanna Leadership Award, named after the Saskatchewan distance runner who succumbed to Huntington’s disease in July 2016.

Hanna "consistently came out to running club even as the disease took hold of him and got worse and worse," and the award is meant to honour those like Senger who follow in Hanna’s footsteps, said Michasiw.

In his runs with the club in the past, Senger was "always in a positive mood and I know he had to work at that," Michasiw said. "You don’t just wake up and it just happens. You choose to be positive, choosing to do his best, fight his cancer."

Senger may not have been taking part Saturday — he’s on a new round of treatment that’s a mix of chemotherapy and radiation — but he hopes to rejoin the club in half a year’s time.

L-R: Brent Senger and Brian Michasiw Senger and Michasiw with the award on Saturday, following the store’s annual BYOC cookie Christmas run. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

And though he says cancer strikes different people in different ways, as long as they can, people should never stop pushing themselves, even if it’s just a little bit.

"If you’re able to, go for a walk. If you can, go for a jog. You’d be surprised what you can do on chemo."

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