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My boyfriend’s cancer battle was ruining my mental health so left him – now I’m running a marathon in his honour

Danielle Epstein, 32, says she is running the London Marathon on Sunday in honor of her ex-boyfriend — after leaving him because his cancer battle was ‘damaging’ her mental health. Her ex, Jelle Fresen, was diagnosed in September with a rare and aggressive type of brain cancer, a grade 4 medulloblastoma, at the age of 37. Fresen had to learn how to walk again after 17 hours of brain surgery.

He also underwent six weeks of radiation therapy and began nine months of chemotherapy. The struggle was simply too much for Epstein at the time. ‘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,’ Epstein explained to South West News Service. The physics teacher explained she was so ‘worried’ and ‘devastated’ about Fresen that she was having trouble sleeping and eating.

‘I was having panic attacks and was on so much medication to sort myself out I just couldn’t function,’ she recalled. ‘I still love Jelle deeply and want to support him, but I came to realize I couldn’t stay with him as his partner.’ The pair split — and now, Epstein is running the marathon in Fresen’s honor to benefit brain tumor research. ‘I felt so helpless watching all this unfold, so I knew I had to do something,’ she shared. The couple was buying a house together when Fresen, a Google software engineer, started to experience dizzy spells and vomiting.

Doctors initially thought he was suffering from an ear infection, but he sought out a private MRI after his vomiting worsened. Epstein started a JustGiving page to fundraise for brain tumor research, with the goal of collecting about $12,500. ‘While his tumor type is rare, brain cancer is not, with one in three people knowing somebody affected,’ Carol Robertson, national events manager for the UK-based charity Brain Tumour Research, told SWNS. ‘We’re very grateful to Danielle for taking on this huge challenge to help raise funds for our cause.’ The scan found the tumor. Surgery revealed the mass in his brain was indeed cancerous.

Epstein said she felt like their whole lives ‘came out from under’ them. The surgery left Fresen with nerve damage, which resulted in some paralysis on the right side of his face. He also can’t fully close one eye, and has a squint that gives him double vision. ‘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,’ Epstein admitted. After they broke things off, Epstein moved to Thailand to be with her father. Now the former couple is trying to work on a friendship.