My late husband, Rocky, died of melanoma in 2008. He fought it three different times over the course of our 18-year marriage. He endured so much — multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, a clinical trial, and even a near-fatal, drug-induced liver failure — and did it all with such dignity and grace. He never complained. I consider him a true inspiration.
I was training for the April 2017 IRONMAN Texas competition in The Woodlands at the time I was diagnosed. I’d started participating in those competitions a few years after my husband died. It was something I’d always wanted to do, and I fell in love with it because I’m an adrenaline junkie. I enjoy pushing my body to the limit. The social aspect of IRONMAN fits me in a lot of ways, too.
I was very reluctant to give up that part of my life. And I worried I’d have to slow down — or even stop entirely — in order to beat cancer. Fortunately, Dr. Schmeler said I didn’t have to stop doing anything.
In fact, she said that staying physically active would probably help counteract any treatment side effects, so she gave me permission to keep training. Dr. Schmeler even organized my chemotherapy infusions around my training schedule, delaying one by more than a week so I could get it after my race.
Racing with a grateful heart
Triathlons are hard, period. But I was under a lot of emotional stress going into the last one. IRONMAN organizers had found out I was being treated for cancer, and they were filming me and sharing my story on social media. I didn’t feel great that day to begin with, and that put a lot of pressure on me to finish.
I’m extremely competitive, but it’s more against myself than others. Still, I knew I wasn’t going to get time that I wanted. Then I remembered that this was not a level playing field. I was the only person out there on chemotherapy that day. And so many other people couldn’t do what I was doing. I was blessed to be able to keep doing something I loved. So, I needed to race with a grateful heart.
‘Never give up’
I’ve been fairly lucky, in that I haven’t had too many side effects from treatment. I experienced a little bit of nausea and fatigue for one or two tired days after each chemotherapy infusion, but that’s not so bad. I also lost my hair, but it’ll grow back.
I know that not everyone wants to be as active as I was during cancer treatment. But I believe that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. So I tell people not to give up, no matter what battle they’re fighting. Never give up. You never know what you’ll accomplish if you do.