Sindy Hooper, 51; Ottawa
My achievement: Completing an Ironman competition
The cause: Pancreatic Cancer Canada
What my husband and I raised: $38,807
On Jan. 2, 2013, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was devastated and scared, but was diagnosed early enough to be eligible for surgery (only 15 percent are). Half my pancreas, half my stomach, my gallbladder, and one third of my small intestine were removed. After surgery, I was told I would receive radiation and chemotherapy for the next eight months.
I was advised that moderate exercise would be good for me. I was already registered for the Ironman Canada triathlon in August, and wanted to give it a try. (It consists of a 3.86-kilometre swim, a 180-kilometre bicycle ride and a marathon run.) The year before, I had completed my first Ironman in 11 hours and 38 minutes, and I loved it. So I wanted to start swimming, biking and running again at an easy pace when I was able, and just see what I could do. Plus, my husband, Jon, and I wanted to raise awareness of and money for Pancreatic Cancer Canada (PCC).
Two weeks post-surgery, I started walking again. Soon after, I was back on my bike trainer and in the pool. At times, the physical pain and mental exhaustion of surgery, chemo and radiation were more than I could bear. So why did I keep exercising? When I go to chemo and look at my scar, I feel like a cancer patient: sad and scared. But when I swim, bike and run, I feel like an athlete: healthy, happy and hopeful.
On Aug. 25, I finished the Ironman in Whistler, B.C., along with Jon, in 16.5 hours-just 30 minutes shy of the 17-hour race cut-off. It was an incredible day.
My last chemotherapy was in September. I hope to be fully recovered from surgery, radiation and chemo by the end of March. I’m registered for two half-Ironmans in 2014, with the goal of qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, this September.
My advice to others is to not take life for granted. Live each day to the fullest, with gratitude and happiness for all you are able to experience with your family and friends.
Pictured: Sindy with her husband, Jon, as they finished the Ironman.