When I was 39, I took on a challenge proposed by a fellow Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) member. That challenge was to complete a triathlon. The only catch was that I needed to learn how to swim and to build endurance to run further than around the block.
Participating in my first all-women’s triathlon turned out to be a transformative experience. I had spent a lifetime assuming I wasn’t athletic, but it turns out that I loved competing! I was amazed at how supportive everyone on the course was and the high-fives from fellow racers on the out-and-back of the run were a blast. It was also super inspiring to see women older than me in fantastic shape and kicking my ass. I suddenly had a new vision of who I wanted to be “when I grew up”!
Preparing for Ironman
One intro led to another and I wound up training in the basement of the world’s most humble championship triathlete, the late Karen McKeachie. Soon after, I tagged along to Ironman Louisville with Karen and her friends to watch them compete. While crewing, the grit and determination I witnessed was inspiring. My stereotypical view of who was an “athlete” got blown out of the water that day. I got the crazy idea that if they could do it, I could too – and the goal to complete an Ironman by age 50 (my personal EOS® 10-Year Target™) was born.
Fast-forward almost 10 years, and I was signed up to compete in Ironman Louisville in the fall. But I hit a speed-bump in May – a diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer. I was scared, but I wasn’t ready to let go of the goal I had spent 10 years building up to, at least not yet. And as fate would have it, I had the right crew in my corner. Even the surgeon recommended to me turned out to be a Boston Marathoner. That was huge because she “got it” and didn’t dismiss me when I asked if it would still be possible to reach the Ironman start line in the fall.
Having a Clear Vision
There are a mind-boggling number of possible surgeries, reconstruction options, and follow up treatments for breast cancer. While some are dictated by the stage and type of cancer, I was still overwhelmed by choices – big, life-altering (or at least body-altering!) choices.
When we talk about how the Vision/Traction Organizer™( V/TO™) creates focus, I feel like that often seems abstract to teams just starting the EOS journey. But there was nothing abstract about how incredibly powerful having the Ironman vision was in my treatment.
When I started filtering decisions through the lens of my vision, I started asking questions like: Which options would promote faster recovery? How could I preserve the most mobility? After applying that filter, the maze of options was no longer an issue. I had clarity and peace with my decision to have a double mastectomy with no reconstruction.
“There’s nothing like a cancer diagnosis to crystallize what makes Vision + Traction® really real, really fast.”
In July I had my surgery, leaving about 12 weeks to rehab for Ironman. Pre-surgery, I didn’t realize I would come out with “T-Rex” arms that were hardly good for daily tasks let alone swimming or having the strength to hold a bicycle upright. But the V/TO came to my rescue again. Though it was tempting to binge-watch Netflix, eat bonbons, and generally feel sorry for myself, I had a goal to work towards – and everybody around me knew it!
A Little Help From My Friends
Knowing that I really wanted to participate in the Ironman, my friends quickly rallied around me. I experienced first-hand how transformational it is when your vision is truly “Shared By All.” Friends and family joined me for walks. My training buddies shifted gears and came to a track near my house so that I could train with them – even when all I could do was walk.
My triathlon coach (also the world’s most humble triathlon coach, Cindi Bannick), worked with me continuously to adapt my training plan and provide unwavering support toward my goal. Neither she, nor I, nor the surgeon knew if it could really be done. Suffice it to say there weren’t a lot of similar experiences we could draw from. All we could do was take it one day at a time, doing everything in our power to create the opportunity to make the impossible, possible.
Together with friends, I stood on that start line and completed that 10-year goal to become an Ironman. So, although we’re fond of saying there are no silver bullets or magic pills in EOS, I beg to differ. There IS magic in the framework of EOS. The miracle of breast cancer surgery to Ironman in 12 weeks wouldn’t have happened without it.
Thanks Gino Wickman!
Previously published on the 87Plus blog