Teacher who dumped boyfriend after he was diagnosed with cancer faces backlash for deciding to run marathon for him

21 April 2023, 10:15 | Updated: 21 April 2023, 11:57

The couple split after Jelle Fresen was diagnosed with cancer
The couple split after Jelle Fresen was diagnosed with cancer. Picture: JustGiving

By Emma Soteriou

A teacher who dumped her boyfriend after he was diagnosed with cancer is facing backlash for now deciding to run a marathon for him.

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Danielle Epstein, 32, said she felt awful for leaving Jelle Fresen, 37, when he was diagnosed with a grade 4 medulloblastoma - a rare form of brain tumour.

He underwent 17 hours of brain surgery to remove the tumour as well as six weeks of radiotherapy and is now going through nine months of chemotherapy.

But in the meantime, Ms Epstein - a physics teacher - began having panic attacks and her mental health spiralled.

She ended the relationship and moved to Thailand - while remaining friends with Mr Fresen - and is now running a marathon for Brain Tumour Research in his honour.

She said she “loved him” but eventually realised she could not stay with him, admitting being with him was “damaging” to her mental health.

She said she suffered panic attacks and was on medication and that the cancer diagnosis made their “whole lives” fall apart.

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Jelle Fresen, aged 37, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma.
Jelle Fresen, aged 37, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma. Picture: JustGiving

"I am going to find running a marathon very hard, having never run further than 5k (the only part I enjoy being the end) but Jelle is my motivation," she said on her JustGiving page.

"If he can go through all of this, I can run a marathon."

Explaining her decision to take on the run, Ms Epstein added: "More money is needed to fund further research into less harsh and more effective treatments for this cancer.

"Any money you can donate will help get us closer to a cure and further away from devastating, heart breaking circumstances like ours.

"So we thank you so much for your support."

She has already raised £8,000 of her £10,000 target.

Jelle Fresen fitted with his radiotherapy mask to keep him in position
Jelle Fresen fitted with his radiotherapy mask to keep him in position. Picture: JustGiving

However, critics have been quick to slam the teacher as "selfish".

One person said: "This genuinely makes me so sad. It's disheartening. It’s possible to be there for others while taking care of your own mental health. This trend of selfishness under the guise of self care has to go. Individualism will be the end of us."

Someone else said: "As someone who's been in her position I know how truly awful it is to watch the person you love go through that. Doesn't change her being a coward though. You left when he needed you most. You didn't deserve him.

"Run all the marathon you want. It won't take your guilt away."

A third person added: "Do people just not have shame? Or a moral conscience?"

But Ms Epstein's ex-boyfriend is understood to be in full support of her and will watch her take on the London marathon over the weekend.

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