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Dom Harvey reveals how his mum saved his life

Woman's Day logo Woman's Day 21/08/2017
Dom Harvey with his mum Sue. © Supplied/Bauer Media Dom Harvey with his mum Sue.

Dominic Harvey describes his new book as a “real-life romance", but it's not about his wife Jay-Jay (the former couple have since gone their separate ways). In fact, it’s dedicated to his mother Sue.

Running: A Love Story is the true tale of how The Edge radio star got hooked on marathons. And it was all thanks to his running-mad mum, who the 44-year-old says saved his life by introducing him to the sport – and he’s not being dramatic.

Running did help Dom to lose a massive 30kg. But more crucially, if it wasn’t for his training, doctors may never have found a rare tumour in his stomach that could have caused a fatal stroke or heart attack.

“I’d just started running and if I went really fast or up a hill, I’d be keeling over, sweating, shaking and vomiting on the side of the road,” the shock jock recalls.

“This was about 10 years ago, and I just thought it was because I was old and unfit.

“Jay-Jay and Mum were telling me to see a cardiologist, but I was always fine by the time I got home.Then I was running the Auckland Marathon and I started feeling s--t again, just a few kilometres in. Fortunately, I was near an ambulance and thought it was the perfect time to get it checked out. They tested my blood pressure, which was really high, and rushed me to hospital. It was really dramatic.”

After a week of tests, doctors found a “big bitch of a tumour” called a pheochromocytoma in his abdomen. Pulling up his shirt to reveal a long scar down the middle of his six-pack, Dom tells, “It was basically a 9cm ball that was growing and releasing adrenaline into my bloodstream whenever I was exercising or stressed.

“It was huge and eventually it could’ve killed me, but they wouldn’t have found it if I hadn’t been running. I don’t like to revisit that time as it’s a little bleak, but once it was removed, it was crazy how good I felt.”

Smiling at her son, Sue adds, “I was worried because you’d been rushed to hospital before, but you couldn’t be bothered fiddling around with the tests. It was attempting to run a marathon that finally found the tumour. It saved your life.”

Dom Harvey with his mum Sue. © Supplied/Bauer Media Dom Harvey with his mum Sue.

But running hasn’t changed just the radio star, reveals Sue, who still competes in marathons at age 65.

“When my marriage to Dom’s dad broke up about 20 years ago, I was quite lost in myself, but running saved me from that. It’s kept me sane and given me confidence. It’s why I don’t need antidepressants.”

Growing up in Palmerston North, Dom was a spectacularly uncoordinated child and took up running only because he was useless at every other sport. He ran his first full marathon at just 14, but he gave up running a year later after an embarrassing result at an interschool event.

As the years without exercise went on, Dom slowly piled on weight until he tipped the scales at 115kg in his late 20s.

Grimacing, Sue tells, “I can’t look at that old picture of him. He was grossly overweight and horrible.”

Laughing, Dom recalls, “I’d stand naked in front of a mirror and think how disgusting I looked. It just crept up on me and all of a sudden, I realised I was a fat bastard. I had to do something about it.”

The dynamic duo at the Chicago marathon. © Supplied/Bauer Media The dynamic duo at the Chicago marathon.

“I knew from Mum’s running that it was a good way to lose weight, so I took it up again, but it was only when I stopped thinking about the weight and started eating well just to improve my running that it dropped off. It took maybe six months.”

Dom now weighs 85kg and since his brush with death, he’s run countless marathons, including five of the six World Marathon Majors, often competing against his mum.

Funnily enough, Sue – who works as a nanny and lives in Auckland, just two minutes away from Dom’s place – had decided to retire from running when Dom and Jay-Jay bought her flights to compete alongside her son in the Chicago Marathon in 2015.

“The very next day, I was out training again,” she smiles.

“It was the best gift because I could feel myself getting slower and heavier, and if you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Gutsy Sue ran the Chicago event in under 4.5 hours and rewarded herself with a tattoo of a runner on her wrist. She now plans to get an inking of a winged shoe after knocking 27 seconds off that time in this year’s London Marathon.

“I really admire the fact she’s still running and I hope I’m doing the same at her age,” grins Dom.

“But I’m most proud of her for getting the tattoo. My little sister Charlotte was like, ‘Tattoos are so bogan – I’ll disown you,’ but Mum had the courage to do it against her daughter’s wishes!”

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