** Some people have been asking what I talked about at my Guest Speaking gig at the Toronto Tri Club AGM. Which is a great question, since I still consider myself a relative Triathlon Newbie. So I decided I would share my speech from Sunday Night. It is hard to condense my misadventures into a short somewhat coherent speech, but I tried...**
So that introduction gave you some insight into the past few years, and as you can see it has been an interesting adventure for me. Genetically speaking, I am a bit of a hot mess. So it should come as no surprise that I am not here to regale you with tales of my podium finish at worlds. I am a solid middle of the packer, always have been, and likely always will be. Instead I am here to talk about how sport is truly for everyone. And hopefully remind you to thank your body for another amazing race season, while I am at it.
I was diagnosed with my heart condition, long QT syndrome, when I was just 17 years old. After months of seeking the right treatment plan, I was eventually outfitted with my first pacemaker/defibrillator. And shortly after that, I decided to take up running.
But my journey to get to that place actually started well before I even knew I had a heart condition.
I was 9, my father had his first heart attack. And the truth about the precarious edge between life and death on which we dwell became ever present in my mind. A long happy life was no longer a guarantee. Health was something earned – and almost never given. And the events that followed left a lasting impression on me.
The thing I remember most about my Dad’s cardiac rehab, and that time in my life, is that while there are aspects of your health you cannot control, there are many parts that are decided by the choices you make every day. And that is a lesson that has always stuck with me.
So at 19, as I a set out my first of what would become many short little walk/runs around the neighbourhood, I knew that despite being really angry at my body for letting me down, I was ultimately responsible for creating that healthy balanced life I was striving for.
And I found myself grateful to be given that chance at all.
Arrhythmias are notoriously difficult to diagnose. They often only strike once - and once can be deadly.
Instead I was given a chance to lead this life and to do it in a healthy way. So I promised myself that if I was given a choice, I would always try to practice that gratitude and put my health first.
In 2012, that promise was really put to the test.
Because after my Mom’s battle with breast cancer, I went through genetic screening for the second time, to discover that I was BRCA 1 positive. Making my chance of developing breast cancer somewhere between the range of 60-80%. And while there are options, none of them are really great.
You can chose to start screening, and screen every 6 months, hoping that you are the lucky 20-40% who do not get breast cancer. And treat the cancer, if and when it is discovered. Or you can act preventatively, and undergo a double mastectomy.
I ultimately decided that health trumps beauty, and acted preventatively with a double mastectomy. (and since you are now all looking – yes, these are fake)
Surprisingly, this was around the exact same time I started to delve deeper in to racing. I signed up for my first half marathon, and ran it the day before I stepped into the OR.
I was struggling with the idea of changing my body, in this drastic way. And running was my way of making peace with my decision. It taught me to love my body for all the amazing things that it could do, rather than for what it looked like.
And just like that. I was hooked.
I started signing up for races regularly. I got myself a bike, and a wetsuit, and I started to dabble in triathlon.
For me, racing has become a part of my genetic battle plan, but also a huge part of my life.
Since I had my double mastectomy in 2012, I have had 3 more surgeries, primarily it deal with my robot heart. (It is not always so glamorous to be bionic). I also lost my Dad in 2013. But all the while I ran, I raced, and I trained. I completed 33 races – everything from 5km, marathons, to triathlons - and I found my peaceful place.
Each time I crossed the finish line felt like a victory, because I was here, I was healthy, and I did it.
There have been moments over the past few years where I have found myself questioning my strength, even questioning my sanity. There were moments where I felt beaten. There were days when burying my head under the covers seemed like the only action I could muster. But I kept training.
Even your worst run is better than no run at all. And I made a promise to myself, that even though things were hard, I would keep going. Even your worst day (and I have had a few of those) is a blessing, so I would keep moving forward. And each run was a reminder, that even when life was hard – I was bigger, badder, and strong than whatever it decided to throw at me.
Some days I run to decompress after work with my husband. Other days I train to part of a community full of amazing and supportive people like you. Sometimes I suffer on the indoor trainer just so I can have dessert guilt-free. But every time I train, it is simply to remind myself, that I can. And I will be forever grateful for that.
Hope to you see at the races.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,