Breast cancer survivor June O’Connell, of a new initiative called ‘ChooseToTri’, which promotes exercise as vital in fighting the disease, writes about why she’s taking on next weekend’s TriAthy
Okay, I completely “get” why Angeline Jolie had a double mastectomy when her risk was that high of developing breast cancer.
And I completely “get” it that the risk of cancer taking her life far outweighed her worries about her body image.
Of course she is lucky enough to have that face and the support of the lovely Brad but still... a very brave decision.
One in 10 Irish women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
And most of us don’t have the luxury of choice about whether or not to have a mastectomy.
Our only thought is: “get this bloody thing away from me or it will kill me”. Our survival instincts kick in. We will do whatever it takes.
We want to get the youngest child to the first day of school, to cry tears of joy seeing our daughter in her communion dress or to happily stand on a freezing pitch, cheering on the kids at sport.
And all the beautiful little joys of life we suddenly see so clearly. Just going to go the pictures with our partners. A swift pint on the way home. Endless cups of tea and long chats about nothing with family and friends.
Great plans to walk the Great Wall of China and dive the Great Barrier Reef just disappear after a diagnosis. The only thing that matters now is life - and love.
Ms. Jolie was at high risk from the “family” gene - but over 90% of breast cancers are not hereditary.
So the obvious question is - what risks are relevant to women like me and you?
And what can we do to reduce those risks - and in our own way be just as proactive as Angelina chose to be?
There continue to be huge advances in cancer treatments but there is no cure for secondary breast cancer.
I am in the business of stacking my odds and reducing my risk of another breast cancer.
So when I heard the evidence at an Irish Cancer Society conference that regular exercise can literally halve your risk of developing breast cancer or its reoccurrence, I thought: “Jeez... (well actually I used another word but it’s not suitable here), that’s the first time I’ve heard that.”
My second thought was that I wanted to tell my sisters, my friends, all the Mammies from the school gate who looked after my family so well during my treatment.
And now you.
I admit, I would’ve been a lot happier if the research said: “sit down on that couch and watch more Mad Men.” But that wasn’t going to happen now, was it?
And if Angeline Jolie can have both breasts removed to reduce her risk of breast cancer because she has the “family” gene, can the rest of us then not just walk out the front door - and keep on walking for 30 minutes a day, every day?
It’s a pretty good trade-off and seems like a no-brainer. Yes, it’s hard to change the habits of a lifetime - but it’s also pretty hard to live without boobs.
So we need to just get on with it and go about exercising regularly to the level we need to be at. Have a look on our website www.choosetotri.com or Google cancer and METs - it’s an eye opener.
And while you’re at it, find an event to sign up for to keep yourself focused. This was the hard part because, guess what? All the “events” were for crazy people who think cycling 100km in the rain in the Wicklow mountains is a bit of craic!!
So we took the existing events but went about created our own space within them for everyday people like ourselves. We’re “Ironing-in-front-of-the-Telly” kinda people.
We’re all about COMPLETING and we’ll leave the competing to the crazies!! We just need to get out there and TRY and make regular exercise a normal part of our lives and the lives of our loved ones. No More Excuses.
Our first event in Athy is on 1 June and the distances are 250m swim (10 lengths of a pool), 20km bike and 3.5km walk/run.
We are partnering with TriAthy for this event. Our aim is for every woman in Kildare to hear about the link between regular exercise and the fight against breast cancer and to say that exercise can be so beneficial without being difficult, without hurting you or without taking over your life.
We don’t fundraise but if you want to for your own cause, that’s fine with us. We recommend the Oncology Day Unit in Naas.
For more information on METs and to register for one of our events go to www.choosetotri.com and ‘Like’ us on Facebook to keep to to date.