TRAINING WHILE GOING THROUGH CANCER TREATMENT
9/5/20 - BY JENN BESENTI - BLOG
In 2015 I was training for Coeur D Alene Ironman. It was Mid May and the race was set for mid June. I was in what I thought was the best shape of my life. I experienced tiredness, but thought it was just from training. I went out to do my last, really long ride before starting to taper and when I was halfway through, I had no energy or strength. At that point, I knew something was wrong. I had been having other issues for months, as well. I kept telling myself it was from training but on this day I just knew something was very wrong. My friend suggested I go visit my Doctor immediately. My Doctor performed Colonoscopy and a few days later I found out I had Rectal Cancer.
Within a week of discovering that I had Rectal Cancer, I started a 6 week long daily regimen of chemo and radiation. Needless to say, I was unable to compete in Ironman. However, I kept swimming and walking as much as possible during those 6 weeks. In the last 2 weeks, I was unable to do much due to the brutal radiation. I had a 2 month break to build my strength before having surgery to remove the tumor. During that time, I swam 2.4 miles across Coeur D Alene lake, walked a Marathon and did an Olympic distance triathlon. The day I had my surgery was the day I was supposed to do a 100 mile bike ride around the lake. Since I did not have the energy to bike 100 miles in 1 day due to my stay in the hospital, I split the ride into 3 days instead to make sure I could finish it, even though I wasn’t going to get my medal.
In September I had surgery to remove the tumor and was given a temporary Ileostomy bag. I was doing laps around the hospital on 2nd floor the next day and tracking it on my Garmin. The surgery was harder to recover from and I was only allowed to walk, so every day I would walk a little further.
In October there was an awards ceremony for the people who had completed the Marathon, swim and 100 mile bike ride. I found out they were still going to give me my medal and honorary mention for completing it. I was so excited even though I had not been able to compete in the Ironman that year. Instead, I performed all the distances separately in an event called the Iron Series! After I had my reversal surgery I. started 6 more months of Chemo. During that time, I walked several 5 and 10 k’s and 1 Half marathon.
I believe that training saved my life. I was so in tune with my body that I knew something was not right. I may not have gone to the doctor as soon, had I not been training. Also, I think the whole process would have been a lot tougher if I were not in the shape I was in. I finished treatment in May of 2016. That's almost exactly 1 year from diagnosis. In June of 2017, I completed the Coeur D Alene half Ironman! I have some pretty harsh side affects but I continue to do triathlons, individual swims, bike and run events, as well as hiking and strength training! My hope is that my story gives hope to anyone newly diagnosed!