2011 was going to be a big year for me. It was going to be my return to the full Ironman after two years of racing half Ironmans and building up speed. I already signed up for August 2011 Ironman Canada – one of most popular and challenging courses in triathlon.  I placed third in the 2005 event and turned down a slot for the coveted Ironman Kona World Championships.  It just wasn’t the right time.  2011 was to be my time.

I had planned to start training hard January 1st and then race one of the hardest half Ironman courses, Wildflower, in May, Escape from Alcatraz triathlon in June, Vineman triathlon in July, Vineman Full Aqua Bike in early August and finally Ironman Canada.  This time I would accept the Kona slot and race in World Championships in October. This was to be an awesome race year. Imagine my surprise when I found out on December 23 that I have cancer.

Now everything is on hold.  Finding out you have cancer is like knowing you are going to have a serious bike accident. Like crashing in slow motion. You know it’s going to hurt and you’re not sure if you’re going to be able to walk away from it. My surgery is on January 12 but I will not know what further treatment will be needed. How many crashes will there be before this course of treatment is over?  I don’t know when I will be able to race again. Good thing I am at the top of my age group making this an ideal year to sit out if it comes to that. All those training hours now redirected to beat cancer.

Cancer in many ways is the ultimate endurance disease.  It starts out slowly but can have a killer kick. Cancer doesn’t just prey on the weak, it also goes after the young and the strong – just ask Lance Armstrong.  Who better to fight this decease than an endurance athlete?   I definitely didn’t want this challenge.  I have always made good food choices, exercised, never smoked and only occasionally had some wine. My healthy habits were not wasted.  Athletes know that being strong and fit going into any event gives you a better chance for a positive outcome.

My blood work came back today and I am in awesome shape to take on the challenge. I will be starting out strong. I don’t even know the course yet. Once you get the news that you have cancer, no one in the medical community wants give you information.  My primary care physician refers me to my new cancer doc who says that I am not her patient until we meet next week. So I am left in the dark – a place where, if you are not careful, fear can get the best of you. Friends are sending me well wishes and relaying their cancer stories. Not all of them are inspiring.  It’s like when I’m going to race a new triathlon course and I ask ten athletes what the course is like. I get ten different responses.  This cancer feels like racing a triathlon blind, without a guide, on an unfamiliar course.

On Friday, January 7, I meet with my cancer doc and she will lay out my treatment plan and the full course of action. This will give me a better sense of what I am facing. I don’t know when I will be able to swim, bike or run again.  From what I have read it will be at least a 4-6 week recovery from the surgery. Then who knows what other treatment awaits.  I have never gone more than a week without exercising. This will be a new experience – living without endorphins!

I am going into this chapter of my life strong and with the support of family and friends.  I was really good about going to my annual check ups allowing them to find the cancer early.  Hopefully, this means that treatment will be more like a sprint triathlon than an Ironman! Regardless, I am ready to fight and who knows maybe even race later this year. I am an endurance athlete and I will endure this.  2011 is going to be my year after all.