I dumped my boyfriend because he had cancer …I felt like an awful person, now I’m running London Marathon in his honour
A WOMAN who dumped her boyfriend because he had cancer is now running the London Marathon in his honour.
Danielle Epstein, 32, said she ”felt like the most awful person” after leaving ex Jelle Fresen when he was diagnosed.
Her former partner was diagnosed with a grade 4 medulloblastoma – a type of brain tumour – in September 2022 when he was 37.
The couple were buying a house in London when Jelle, who works as a Google software engineer, suffered dizzy spells and vomiting.
Jelle was diagnosed and had to re-learn to walk after an operation and also had radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
The tumour type is so rarely seen in adults it is among the least well understood, and the prognosis is variable.
Physics teacher Danielle experienced panic attacks and her mental health plummeted and the pair ended up splitting up.
She moved to Thailand with her dad but has stayed friends with Jelle, who will watch her run the marathon on Sunday in his name for Brain Tumour Research.
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.
“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’re still figuring things out and finding ways to continue our relationship as friends. Our whole lives came out from under us.
“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 anymore.”
She continued: “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.”
In August, after numerous consultations with GPs and ineffective treatments for an ear infection, the vomiting became much worse.
Jelle went for a private MRI scan using his health insurance with Google, where he works as a software engineer.
The mass was discovered and he was booked in for surgery in September, after which it transpired the tumour was cancerous.
The surgery left nerve damage which resulted in palsy to the right side of his face, and a squint which causes double-vision.
He also can’t fully close his eye and must use eye drops and ointments constantly.
Speaking about the London Marathon, Danielle said: “I felt so helpless watching all this unfold, so I knew I had to do something.
“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 said: “I will be there on the day to cheer Danielle on, I think it’s incredible what she’s doing.
“When she said she was going to do a marathon, I must admit I had my doubts.
“I think she only did about 5km when we were together and that was with a lot of complaining.
“I’ve got so much respect for her discipline and perseverance.”
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.
“If you have your own place through the ballot, we would love you to join our Fighting Force London Marathon team.”