This Sunday I will do my first triathlon, The Hansen Dam Triathlon. Something I NEVER thought I’d do. Triathlons always seemed to me the pinnacle of obsessive exercise behavior. Especially the Iron Man (which I still think is crazy), but my journey of the last two years has brought me to the point of embarking on this my first “sprint triathlon.”
How did I get here? Two years ago, I finished my radiation treatment for cancer of the ankle. It would be another month before I’d walk again. That left me having spent 8 months in various stages of immobility- crutches, cane, hospitalized on complete bed rest, wheelchair, crutches, cane, crutches non-weight bearing again. During all of this time, I learned many things about myself and had endless amounts of time to think about my life. Shortly after getting my diagnosis, I was told that amputation would likely be the only way to avoid a recurrence of my cancer, and after going through all of my surgeries and treatments, I still face the reality that IF I have a local recurrence (ie. if the sarcoma comes back in my ankle) given how much of my ankle has already been removed, amputation still might be the only option. This is my reality. I don’t think about it often, but there it is. Through out my whole ordeal, I questioned what was the purpose of these trials? Would there be one, and what would I miss the most? I fought against my dependence on others, but I also learned to ask for help.
I realized that many of the things I feared losing, I had lost by letting myself get out of shape through years of my own medical training and not prioritizing my own health. I vowed to change that as soon as I was allowed to exercise again. Once I was given the green light, I was doing physical therapy twice a week, I joined a gym (largely to be able to swim), shortly thereafter I started working out with a personal trainer. Over the months and months that followed I got back to where I was before the first surgery, but suddenly that wasn’t good enough. I committed to being as healthy as possible. I kept weight lifting. I was up to swimming 1500-2000 yards at a go, and I started swimming butterfly again. I decided to start running. I prioritized my own health and fitness.
Now two years after completing my treatment I am in better shape than I have been since high school (if not ever), healthy eating and exercising are staples in my life. My outlook has never been better. A few months ago, friends started asking me with the fact that I am a swimmer, and now I ran 2-4 miles a few days a week when would I do triathlon. My response the first several times was an emphatic never. However, it got me thinking, why not? With a commitment to training, I could totally do it. This athletic event that always seemed miles out of my reach, suddenly sounded possible. My scarred, weakened ankle and I started training. I was hooked, I committed to doing the triathlon with a friend. I’ve now been training for 5 months, and I am sure I’ll be able to finish, but I am hoping to make a specific time. That old competitive spirit is alive in me.
I am doing this triathlon as a testament to my recovery, as thanks to the people who helped me get through my journey, as an outward sign of making my health a priority in my life.
Thanks to all of you for supporting me along this journey!