I did my first triathlon to celebrate the end of my chemotherapy treatments for ovarian cancer. It was the Reebok in Seattle/Federal Way, 2004.
I was diagnosed with stage 2 ovarian cancer in February. I had a full hysterectomy and began a series of 6 chemotherapy treatments.
Around the middle of my treatments, I was browsing the Internet for information on ovarian cancer. I came across a Web site for the Reebok triathlon in support of ovarian cancer research. I had never done a triathlon in my life, I was bald, weak and very sick – but reading the triathlon description inspired me. I didn’t know if I could actually do it (my final chemo treatment was scheduled for July 9th and the triathlon was September 12), but I figured I would sign up and see how things went. I told only one friend.
From the moment I signed up, I felt better. I felt more in control of my life, stronger, more optimistic and definitely happier.
Needless to say, I was out of shape. My first workout was a walk around the block. My first bike ride was half a mile. My first swim was 2 laps. But gradually I improved. I started to think I might actually be able to do the triathlon. I started telling friends. People wanted to join me. Soon I had a team of friends signed up with me. My last treatment came and went and we celebrated. I took a swim class and by the end of the week, I could finally swim half a mile with only a few breaks.
It was an enormous relief to have something to talk about other than cancer. It was very exciting to feel like an athlete, albeit a complete novice. Anything was better than being a cancer patient.
The day of the triathlon was one of the best days of my life. I felt strong and healthy. Lots of friends and family came to cheer me on. The support was overwhelming.
That initial jump into the lake was a bit of a shock and took my breath away. People were everywhere – arms and legs were flying and it took a minute or two of just treading water for my heart to slow down and my breath to come back. But soon I fell into a rhythm and enjoyed the swim out into the lake and back. Coming out of the water people were cheering and I felt invigorated. The transition was fun as I jumped on the bike and took off. Along the route people cheered and while all my teammates did pass me, at least I got to chat with them briefly as they flew by. I walked the entire 5K – but I met several people on the way and enjoyed sharing stories.
My husband, friends and teammates were all at the finish to greet me with cameras rolling and banners waving.
While not the fastest participant, I can assure you that you don’t need to finish first to win. One of my favorite photos is of me with my teammates at the end. It is the only photo I have of me without any hair where I actually like the way I look. You can see the joy in my face and I remember that feeling oh so well.