We recently spoke to some athletes from Team Phoenix, which trains breast cancer survivors to complete a triathlon. Diane Ringeisen, who participated in the team’s most recent event on July 31, gave us her thoughts about the training and the team in her own words.
Tell us about your breast cancer journey.
I am a registered nurse, who works in breast cancer sometimes. When I tell my story, I sometimes feel like I’m speaking about someone else. When I speak about it I could see it from a different perspective as a health care provider.
But, it’s me. I’ve had quite a long journey with breast cancer, and thankfully I was able to beat it twice. I was diagnosed 16 years ago when I was in my early 40s. I survived that, and then I had a recurrence six years ago. Through treatments, I successfully fought the cancer.
How did you hear about Team Phoenix?
Actually, I saw a small ad in a local newspaper. Most people say that a triathlon is on their bucket list, but to be honest it wasn’t on mine! It seemed challenging, though, and those kinds of challenges catch my attention. So I answered the ad and was invited to participate.
I joined in the month of March, and we had a 14-week training period prior to the triathlon.
What made you decide to sign up?
I am the kind of person who is very diligent about working out for a while, and then I don’t. Being active is more of doing something at your leisure. I have a lot of peaks and valleys. Coach Lauren told us at the beginning of the training that there is a huge difference between having an active lifestyle, and actually training. With training there was a goal in mind. You have to follow a formal workout schedule. Running in this triathlon was a confidence booster.
I always thought I had a healthy body, but it was hard for me to trust my body again after the diagnosis. I wasn’t sure if I could go through the training, be successful, and improve my health.
Why do you say it was hard for you to ‘trust your body’?
When you have a cancer diagnosis you see yourself as something being wrong with your body. It was scary to put that trust in my body again – that I can be my healthy self again. By eating right and exercising twice a week, I can have that confidence in myself again. Biking, swimming, running 5ks, those were all physical accomplishments.
Especially the swimming! The running and biking were not as hard, but the swimming was. The training helped me to build the confidence to complete the swimming successfully. The coaching staff and physical therapist was always there for motivate, and help you in your time of need.
What really struck you about Team Phoenix?
The focus was not on breast cancer. The participants incorporated that experience in their life, and over the 14-week period they were able to use those experiences as motivation to train. But this was not a group of women who saw themselves as victims. Something that stood out to me is the absolute strength of these women, and how they incorporated their life threatening experience into their lives. In the end they really became stronger women.
What sort of impact do you feel Team Phoenix has had on your life?
The whole experience brought back my faith and belief in health care. We all have experiences with health care systems. The coaching was one aspect, but the umbrella of the Aurora services that came with the program was such a unique experience.
It is truly a gift to be a part of this program, because every volunteer, everyone on the Aurora staff, and every coach was there for us as an individual. Every single person was always kind, supportive, and would give you whatever you need to help you succeed in this program. No matter what your skill level was everyone was there for each other. Everyone waited for you to cross the finish line. It didn’t matter if you were the first or the 33rd person crossing the finish line. Everyone was still standing there to support you. You can tell when people are doing things from their heart. It’s not a job – it is their passion.