Glenwood Springs cancer survivor an inspiration to many

Stina Sieg
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler/Post IndependentAuthor Nancy Reinisch signs a copy of her book, "Chemosabee," at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs on Dec. 4. The book details Reinisch's journey through the first year of breast cancer.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” After nearly every joke and inspirational anecdote Nancy Reinisch told the crowd, they exploded with applause. Valley View Hospital’s lobby was packed to the gills with people, mostly women, who were letting out shrieks and whoops and hollers. Though they were there, ostensibly, to celebrate the release of Reinisch’s new book, “Chemosabee: A Triathlete’s Journey through the First Year of Breast Cancer,” they had truly come to celebrate Reinisch.

“To feel so loved is a wonderful thing,” Reinisch said, after the party.

While she, of course, downplayed it, not many people have a story quite like hers. A self-described “adult onset athlete,” Reinisch is a triathlete who didn’t start exercising until she was 34. That was 1987, and she’s since completed hundreds of triathlons. When, in 2006, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she tackled it in a fashion that blew people away. She didn’t stop her life, didn’t give up her exercising. Instead, she used it to help her get through that trying time. The book chronicles her experience ” one that had obviously touched the entire lobby of women.

“She’s a great lady,” said Melissa Miller, dabbing tears out of her eyes.

As a member of Reinisch’s Roaring Fork Women’s Triathlon Team, Miller was deeply affected by how Reinisch dealt with her illness. For the most part, she explained, Reinisch was her “chipper self” ” one who still got up in the dark to train. That created a resolve in Miller. Though she had only done the swimming leg at her first triathlon, after watching Reinisch’s year of cancer, she completed her first, full race.

“She’s definitely an inspiration,” Miller said.

Standing nearby, Elaine Grossman used almost the exact same words. A cancer survivor and a founder of the Quality of Life Cancer Project, Grossman spoke of the “grace” Reinisch brings to her survivorship. Reinisch’s unwavering fortitude gets to Grossman.

“I would say Nancy is a thriver. She’s not (just) a survivor,” Miller said.

As Resa Hayes put it, “If anyone could charge through this, it’s Nancy.”

Reading “Chemosabee” with her daughter, Sophia, 9, Hayes said that she and Reinisch have been friends for a long while. But even beyond their bond, she’s so impressed by Reinisch. She described Reinisch as a mentor to women in this valley, not just as a cancer survivor, but as an athlete, community volunteer and a mom.

“That’s why we come here, because she’s given us so much support,” Hayes said. “It’s time to show her what we can do for her.”

That night, what they showed her overwhelmed Reinisch.

“It was an amazing feeling,” she said.

As she was signing her books, she remembered thinking that all the cancer survivors there should be doing the same thing. Everyone’s got a story, Reinisch explained, and so everyone should be the star of her own book.

Still, it’s hard to imagine hardly anyone rallying people quite like Reinisch. Her book is full of humor and self-deprecation and an intimate honesty that it can’t be easy to muster. She even includes pictures of her experience, every step along the way, mastectomy and all.

“If I can help someone not feel so alone going through this process, then I was ready to bare my soul,” she said.

Completely modest, she admitted to the doubt and fear she’s had along the way. She didn’t describe herself as being special or super human. What she did talk about was all the support she had received. She spoke lovingly of the hospital and her husband ” and all those friends that didn’t wait for her to ask for help. They brought her meals and water and made her feel part of the community. No one, she stressed, should go through cancer on their own.

Among so many other things, this book is a way to reach those who just might be.

“I found people helping me,” she said, “and I want to help others.”

And so she is, undeniably.

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