A woman participating in the London Marathon in honour of her ex-boyfriend’s battle with cancer has opened up about her decision to end their relationship, because of the emotional toll of his illness.
Danielle Epstein, 32, was in the midst of purchasing a home with Jelle Fresen in London last year when he was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor at the age of 37.
His treatment journey, which included a complex operation, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, took a significant toll on both his physical and mental well-being, leaving Danielle grappling with panic attacks and declining mental health.
Feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of supporting Jelle while dealing with her own mental health struggles, Danielle made the difficult decision to end their relationship.
She said: “I felt like the most awful person, leaving somebody because they have cancer, but it was damaging my mental health and it wasn’t helping Jelle.
“We were on a certain path to a certain future and within one day we knew it wasn’t going to work out like that any more.
“I was so worried and devastated, I couldn’t sleep or eat.
“I was having panic attacks and was on so much medication to sort myself out I just couldn’t function.”
Despite this, she maintained a friendship with Jelle and eventually relocated to Thailand with her father.
Reflecting on her decision, Danielle expressed feelings of guilt and anguish, acknowledging the immense challenges they faced as a couple in the wake of Jelle’s diagnosis.
She remained engaged in Jelle’s recovery process, providing support and keeping abreast of his progress.
Following his surgery, Jelle experienced complications such as nerve damage that affected the mobility of his face, along with other physical challenges.
Witnessing his struggles motivated Danielle to take action, leading her to commit to running the London Marathon in support of Brain Tumour Research.
Although not an experienced runner, Danielle saw the marathon as an opportunity to honor Jelle’s resilience and raise awareness and funds for brain cancer research.
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Despite the physical and mental challenges of training, Danielle remained determined, drawing inspiration from Jelle’s strength throughout his ordeal.
She said: “I’m not a runner, but Jelle has done marathons before, so I thought it would be a challenge for me and a nice tribute to him and it felt like something to aim towards.
“I won’t be fast, but I’m determined to get round.
“Training has been tough physically and mentally – just keeping going when you’re so bored is challenging.
“But I have the best motivation; if Jelle can go through all of this then I can run a marathon.”
Jelle, while initially surprised by Danielle’s decision to take on such a daunting challenge, expressed admiration for her dedication and perseverance.
Danielle said: “I still love Jelle deeply and want to support him, but I came to realise I couldn’t stay with him as his partner.
“We’re still figuring things out and finding ways to continue our relationship as friends.
“Our whole lives came out from under us.’
Carol Robertson, national events manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: “We’re so sorry to hear about Jelle’s diagnosis.
“While his tumour type is rare, brain cancer is not, with one in three people knowing somebody affected.
“We’re very grateful to Danielle for taking on this huge challenge to help raise funds for our cause.
“Our marathon runners are supported every step of the way, and we look forward to cheering her across the finish line.”