100 pounds overweight, while battling stage 3 breast cancer Patricia knew she had a challenge ahead. What she achieves is remarkable. The hope she passes on, invaluable ...
I closed my eyes and lifted my face towards the sun. I allowed the warmth on my cheeks to radiate into my very core. I breathed deeply, expanding my lungs with fresh, crisp spring air. I was alive.
My husband and I were out walking in one of our favourite places. The paved path circled the serene lake. It was a popular spot for outdoor enthusiasts; an escape to soothing wilderness right in the very center of town. The winding path took us an hour to walk.
I hadn’t been able to walk the entire distance around the lake a couple months before. I was just finishing up with treatments for stage three breast cancer when we started these walks. My body was weak and sore. My mind was foggy and forgetful. I would get lost easily if my husband wasn’t there with me. I had been fighting for over a year to make it through two mastectomy surgeries, several rounds of chemotherapy and three months of daily radiation treatments.
I felt broken-down, scared and depleted. The cancer was found early enough not to have destroyed my body. But the treatments had crumpled much of my strength, energy and mind. Being 100 pounds overweight, I was tired of being tired. I needed to change my life.
My husband, who heard my big breath intake, asked if I was okay. I opened my eyes, looked at the concerned expression on his face and smiled. I reassured him that I was indeed fine; normal in fact. In that moment I felt happy.
As I was looking over at him, my eyes caught the sight of two women running. I focused on their movements. I watched intently as their feet hit the pavement in quickened canter-like movements. I guessed that they were in their late 40s, close to my age. They wore black, pink & green athletic wear. Smiling and laughing as they ran, they were happy that afternoon too.
Could I do that, I thought? Could I run around the lake? Those ladies made it look fun. Walking was getting easier for me now. It wasn’t getting my heart-rate up anymore. My oncologist said I needed cardio exercise. “Like Jane Fonda”, he said. Walking was no longer enough. I contemplated this, keeping the picture of those two women running clear in my mind, as my husband and I finished our walk around the lake.
In the days that followed, I couldn’t stop thinking about running ...
Something about running appealed to me. My husband thought it was a good idea. But I had doubts. I knew running was a lot harder than it looks.
With encouragement from my husband, I pushed those doubts aside and signed up for a learn-to-run class. One month after my last dose of radiation, I put on shorts, a pink t-shirt and running shoes and headed out for my first running class.
On the first day of classes, we were to do intervals of running one minute, followed by walking for two minutes. We were to repeat this seven times for a total of 21 minutes. That sounded easy enough. I was excited.
My enthusiasm soon turned to dismay and panic. Running felt so awkward. The quick turnover of my feet hitting the ground felt so unnatural. It was a foreign movement to my legs and body. This was not like walking at all. About 30 seconds into the run, I couldn’t breathe. I was struggling to get enough air in. My heart was pounding. I could hear the pulses in my ears. Sweat was beading onto my forehead and under my arms, making me uncomfortable.
How could this be healthy? I wondered. I felt like I was having a heart attack. Doubt swarmed inside my head. I was so out of shape. I felt silly for being there.
I am not entirely sure why I went back to the second class. That first class was embarrassing for me. I struggled at the back of the group. I wondered if I would pass out or have to walk back. But I didn’t. And here I was back for more of this grueling punishment for the second class. Perhaps I was just being stubborn?
I tend to finish what I start. So, I went to each and every one of those run classes. I persevered and progressed, continuing to hang out at the back of the group. I was the slowest runner in the class.
And then, on October 5, 2014, after 12 weeks of run classes, I ran my first 5 km fundraiser for breast cancer research. I crossed the finish line, dressed in pink, with tears streaming down my face. They were happy tears of celebration. I did it!
I crossed the finish line, dressed in pink, with tears streaming down my face. They were happy tears of celebration. I did it!
I survived cancer and I just ran 5 km. I found an inner strength and tenacity that I didn’t know I had until that moment when I crossed the finish line.
Running was symbolic of my fight with cancer, and I was winning.
But I didn’t stop at 5 km. That race sparked something in me; a passion to overcome physical hardship. I craved more. I was regaining control of my body and my life after cancer. I was telling my body what to do. I refused to let my body, and my cancer, dictate the direction of my life. I was taking back my life and my health. I ran several 5 km races before progressing to run a 10 km race, and then a 10-mile race. I moved on to running half marathons, 13.1 miles. Losing 90 pounds, I had energy and could think clearly again.
After running over 15 half marathons, I decided I needed to tackle something much bigger. I decided to run a full marathon. Running 26.2 miles seemed impossible to me. I never thought of myself as athletic. I fought obesity all my life. But I also never thought I would run 3 miles either. And I did that again and again. So, on the 5th anniversary of my cancer survivorship, I decided I was going to tell my body to run a marathon.
I trained for 20 weeks. Running consumed my days, weeks and summer months. And on October 6, 2019, 5 years after my first 3-mile race, I crossed the marathon finish line, dressed in pink, with tears streaming down my face. I pushed my body beyond what I thought possible. And it responded. I did it. I ran my first marathon.
Now, I want to help others discover their potential for healthy living. I believe the path to healing our body, mind and spirit is through being active, eating nutritious food and mindfulness. I feel so strongly about this that I have gone back to school to become a certified health coach specializing in helping people with cancer. It is possible to be healthy and happy after cancer.
With my science background, I founded the website Pink Ribbon Runner to share information, inspiration and tools to empower people to transform their lives, like I did. Pink Ribbon Runner is me, but my website is much more than running. I also started the Cancer Survivors’ Healthy Living Network on Facebook.
Be Inspired by Patricia Prince...
I am a breast cancer survivor and certified health coach.
I learned to overcome, prevail, and flourish after breast cancer treatments. And now, I want to help you learn to recover from your ordeal.
I founded both aftercancercoach.com and pinkribbonrunner.com to help other cancer survivors heal and thrive in life after cancer treatments are finished. I also run the discussion group Cancer Survivor’s Healthy Living Network on Facebook.