|Julie biking in the Hagg Lake Triathlon in Oregon in July.|
Here’s one way to get over the worries about cancer treatment and the fears of its return: run a triathlon or two. That’s the approach Julie Desloge took—she completed her first sprint triathlon in June 2010, a little more than two years after she was diagnosed with triple-negative. She participated in two additional races that summer—and her radiation oncologist was her teammate on the third. On that race, her doctor swam 1.5 kilometers, her husband ran 10 kilometers, and Julie biked 40 kilometers. That translates to slightly less than a mile swim, a 24.8-mile bike ride, and a 6.2-mile run.
Julie was diagnosed with a 2.6-centimeter tumor in February 2008 when she was 41. She had neoadjuvant chemotherapy—four rounds of Taxotere and Cytoxan—that got rid of all but .3 centimeters of the tumor, a nearly 90 percent reduction. Easily speaking the jargon on cancer, she says, “No pathologically complete response for me.” And, while her response was only partial, it nevertheless was significant, offering her a positive prognosis.
A lumpectomy followed chemo, with radiation after that.
Risk factors? She’s negative for the BRCA mutation, but wonders about her reproductive history—she started her periods young, at age 11. And she’s the mother of three children, who were 11, 9, and 6 at the time of diagnosis, although she breastfed all three for nine to ten months.
She was about 15 pounds overweight when she was diagnosed; Taxol added another 8 pounds or so. Her weight continues to be a challenge, even with her high level of exercise. She now weighs more than she did at diagnosis, although much of that is probably muscle, which weighs more than fat. “I haven’t really found the key to unlocking much weight loss,” she says. Still, we’re talking about being only slightly beyond her ideal—Julie says her BMI is a healthy 24.8.
She had been exercising regularly before cancer, doing cardio and resistance exercises four to five days a week. But she upped the ante after treatment and hit the triathlon circuit near her Portland, Oregon home. Cancer, she says, not only gave her motivation to maintain a healthy lifestlye, but it provided a chance to look outside herself at what others are going through. She’s bothered when friends protest that they should not complain about any problems they encounter, given what she faced in cancer treatment. “Pain is pain,” she says.
“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” As a breast cancer survivor, I have been in awe about how fragile and strong the human body can be at the same time, affected with disease, yet able to withstand the rigors of cancer treatment. I have always been grateful for that, and grateful to be able to thrive at life now.
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