Cancer-survivor who defied doctors’ orders never to run again competes in London Marathon in aid of Brondesbury charity

PUBLISHED: 07:42 22 April 2019 | UPDATED: 17:18 25 April 2019

Luca Hunter.

Luca Hunter.


A cancer-surviving chef who was told 15 years ago that she would never run again is running her 35th marathon in aid of a Brondesbury charity.

Luca Hunter is running the grueling London Marathon for the Brent Centre for Young People, a charity in Winchester Avenue, caring for those with mental health issues, eating disorders, suicidality and anxiety.

The 26-mile run is just a “warm up” to a six day “ultra marathon”, the Marathon des Sables, the 38-year-old is competing in across the Sahara desert.

Doctors told Luca to give up running after three major operations to rid lymphatic cancer gave her a facial stroke and cerebral palsy and the loss of control in her face for a year and a half.

But six months after having half her jaw and salivary glands removed – making running fatal – she took on her first marathon and has gone on to run 34 more.

“The doctors told me, no more running, no more competitive sport, any kind of exertion is dangerous,” she said.

“They described it to me as a chain of tumours which had knotted themselves around the glands in my neck. I was young, not terribly old, and that's probably the worst age to be told you need any kind of facial surgery.

“Salivary glands play a crucial role in the body's hydration and without them, doctors said long distance running would be dangerous.”

She added: “When the doctor told me to give up all kinds of running, a little voice went off inside my head. I thought, well, we'll see about that - I'll show you!

“I guess I'm the kind of person who if you tell me I can't do something, I just kind of spark up inside. How do people climb mountains? They just kind of decide.”

She's 'winding-down' from the race on April 28 by walking 140 km of the Spanish Camino de Santiago trail in the Pyrenees the week after.

She will then take on the soaring temperatures of the Marathon des Sables while carrying 10kg of survival gear on her back.

“It's completely nuts. Everyone I know that's run it said it's an amazing experience,” she added. “I don't run in marathons to hit targets. For me it's always been about running for the joy of it - to be outside, see the birds. It's like therapy. I run to appreciate being alive.”

To support Luca click here

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Brent & Kilburn Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Kilburn Times