Exercise helps women cope with breast cancer | PostIndependent.com

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Exercise helps women cope with breast cancer

Post Independent/Kelley Cox

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Like training for a triathlon, beating breast cancer takes strategy.And for the six breast cancer survivors on the Roaring Fork Women’s Triathlon Team, strategy involves passion and endurance, perseverance and camaraderie.”One of the reasons I do this is because I don’t want to have any regrets if it comes back,” triathlete Debi Wright said.Wright, of Glenwood Springs, is a six-year survivor and two-year member of the team. Sitting at a picnic table at Sayre Park Tuesday, she described being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing treatment as an out-of-body experience.Triathlon training serves as a reality check.”Just to know you can get your body back,” she said.The six women share a passion for their sport, which helps them lead healthy lifestyles, even during the toughest of cancer treatments. Their determination to not let cancer win extends from the courses they run to the courses of their everyday lives.”Fitness is absolutely non-negotiable in my world,” triathlete Jill Jarling said. “There is absolutely no doubt fitness helps fight reoccurrences.”Jarling, of Glenwood Springs, is in her first year on the triathlon team. She celebrates four years of being cancer-free Saturday, and suggests exercise in any form to help cope with cancer.”It doesn’t have to be a triathlon,” Jarling said.

Wearing an identical lime green Roaring Fork Women’s Triathlon Team T-shirt, Heidi Halladay agreed.”You can just walk,” she said.On Aug. 19, Halladay marked two years being cancer-free. Triathlon training keeps her motivated to lead a healthy lifestyle, she said.”Having a goal … training for a triathlon, it gave me something to focus on,” said Halladay, a five-year triathlete. “And Tri for the Cure (Sprint Triathlon for breast cancer), it’s got a lot of meaning for me now.”Nancy Reinisch, the team’s co-coach, said Halladay was an inspiration after her breast cancer diagnosis a year-and-a-half ago.”To me, Heidi was my mentor,” Reinisch said. “I don’t want my life to be cancer. And athletics are a part of that, part of the power of knowing other breast cancer survivors. It’s important to have role models.”Mary Jay was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago and became interested in triathlon training to support other women. Jay, married to former Sopris Barracudas swim coach Howard Jay, has been a swim coach for the team for five years.She finds participation empowering.”I married into swimming,” she said, with a chuckle. “So for me to come to the group was helping me to do for others.”Liane Anderson, of New Castle, joined the team five years ago.”I joined for the motivation and support, and the accountability to get up in the morning,” she said.

Anderson – a breast cancer survivor of one year – joined the team long before she knew how important the 50 triathletes would be in her life.”Nancy (Reinisch) really inspired me. … She was just four months in front of me,” she said. “I also knew I had to get back in shape after.”Starting Wednesday, the six women are joining together to participate in a three-day symposium on breast cancer with renowned surgeon Dr. Carolyn Kaelin at the Hotel Colorado. The event is sponsored by Valley View Hospital and the Aspen Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.Reinisch said the symposium will focus on the importance of fitness in recovery. Community education will be offered starting at 3 p.m. Wednesday, and specialized training for health care and fitness professionals takes place Thursday and Friday.”What research is saying is that exercise actually blocks the hormone level for return of tumor growth,” she said. “It’s not just for our appearance – it’s life or death.”Wright said exercise keeps her mind and body in check.”It’s the mental aspect of it,” she said. “I don’t like to take drugs. I’d rather go out for a run.”Or swim. And a bicycle ride.Contact April Clark: 945-8515, ext. 16601

aclark@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO