Anything is possible ...
Hi. My name is Sindy. I live in Ottawa, Canada and spend most of my time as a mom, wife and triathlete. I love to swim, bike and run. 2012 was a very special and memorable year for me as I trained for my first Ironman and tried, for the first time, to qualify for the Hawaii Ironman World Championship.
Through the spring and summer of 2012 my husband Jon and I spent a lot of time training with a wonderful group of friends. We trained through the week and spent most weekends swimming, biking and running from morning to dinner time. We loved the active, healthy lifestyle and the friendships that were developed as we tackled longer and longer training days together.
In June I raced a half Ironman (2k swim, 90k bike, 211k run) in Cambridge Maryland and missed qualifying for the Ironman World Championship by one place. In August I completed my first Ironman (4k swim,180k bike,42.2k run) in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, loved the day, finished in 11 hours and 38 minutes, and missed going to Hawaii by 2 places. Ironman was so much fun that a bunch of us registered for Ironman Canada, August 25th 2013 in Whistler BC.
Around my 50th birthday on Dec 9th, I started having some upper abdominal and mid back pain. At Christmas my skin became itchy and at New Year's I had stomach cramping and some diarrhea. On Jan 1st I was exceptionally tired after a 15k slow run and on Jan 2nd my eyes looked jaundiced. Jon arranged for blood work and an ultrasound that afternoon at The Civic Hospital, thinking I might have gall stones.
After an exceptionally long ultrasound the radiologist told me I had a malignant tumor on my pancreas, a cancer. Shock, disbelief, my world felt shattered. How is this possible when I'm in the best shape of my life? When Jon and I were alone I asked him "Is this a good cancer or a bad cancer to have?" He replied "a bad one" and we both cried, hugging each other not knowing what to say next.
I soon learned that the predisposing factors for pancreatic cancer are smoking, obesity, age over 55, African American heritage, pancreatitis, and diabetes. I had none of them. Pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cause of cancer-related death in Canada and the lifetime probability of developing pancreatic cancer is approximately 1 in 79. It has the highest mortality rate of all the major cancers; 75% die within the first year of their diagnosis (most within the first 3 - 6 months) and 94% of patients die within 5 years. Surgery offers the best chance for long term survival, however, only 15% of patients are diagnosed early enough to be eligible for surgery.
I had a CT scan the next day, on January 3rd, to find out if the tumor I had was able to be removed or not. On Jan 4th I had an appointment with a really great surgeon; who confirmed that I should have surgery as soon as possible. For the next 3 days we all prayed that the tumor could be removed. I thought a lot about the possibility of only living for three to six more months, and I was absolutely terrified.
January 7th I was admitted to hospital and January 8th was surgery. I had a Whipple Procedure that lasted 7 hours and removed ½ of my pancreas, 1/3 of my stomach, my gallbladder and duodenum. I woke to learn the tumor had been removed. I was very fortunate to be in that small group of 15%. Recovery from Whipple surgery began. Pathology showed that there was no spread to lymph nodes, blood vessels or nerves, however, there was microscopic tumour left in two spots. I started chemotherapy on February 19th, once a week for 6 months. Radiotherapy will be every weekday from mid April to mid May.
Pancreatic cancer is not as well known as other cancers but it remains the deadliest. It claims nearly as many lives each year as breast and prostate cancer combined, yet remains underfunded and misunderstood. The 5-year survival rate has remained unchanged for decades; the only cancer with a 5-year survival rate still in the single digits at 6%.
When I registered for Ironman Canada last year my goal was to finish in 11 hours, make it onto my age group podium and earn my spot to race at the Hawaii Ironman World Championship. My goal now is to train for Ironman Canada, having as much fun as I can, while raising awareness about pancreatic cancer, and raising money to support pancreatic cancer research. I’d very much like to complete Ironman Canada within the 17 hour time limit and live up to the Ironman Motto "Anything is Possible."
People may wonder why continuing to be a triathlete and finishing an Ironman is so important to me while facing pancreatic cancer. One, it gets me through the dark overwhelming days, training not only keeps my body strong but my heart and soul strong as it temporarily frees me from the fears of the unknown. Second, although triathlon is an individual sport it is made up of a very supportive, loving group of people who genuinely care and encourage each other. I want to use my training to help spread awareness of pancreatic cancer.
My Journey with Pancreatic Cancer
To learn more about my experience with pancreatic cancer from diagnosis, surgery to my training for the Ironman - click on this link
Connect to my Blog - Making Every Moment Count