Learning to listen to my body
Breast Cancer - Triathlon
My name is Miriam Staunton, I am 45 years old and have 3 children aged 16, 13 and 10. I’ve been into Triathlon for almost 10 years now, gradually becoming more and more addicted. I have completed 3 ironman distance races as well as every other distance in between.
In February 2018 I noticed a pain under my right arm, when I felt it my stomach lurched. It was a very obvious lump in there. I saw my GP in the following days and was referred for a mammogram and ultrasound. My mammogram was normal but as soon as the ultrasound probe was put on my skin, the Sonographer’s face said it all. A large mass 5cm in diameter ‘even if this is benign it will need to come out’. Biopsy confirmed that this was in fact melanoma and a battery of tests then ensued to find the primary source. Skin? negative, lungs? negative, Bowel? negative, upper gastro tract? negative, eyes? negative. Final diagnosis secondary melanoma unknown primary source.
I had surgery in March to remove the tumour and all 12 lymph nodes, followed by radiation. Aside from 2 weeks post surgery I have kept up with some level of training. I’ve found it to be the one solid thing I can grasp onto in the whirlwind of diagnosis and treatment.. Damage to my skin meant running and swimming was off the cards but my bike on my turbo became my escape and my FU to cancer. A friend invited me to join her and her workmates on a cycling ‘holiday’ in Tuscany and training for this became my focus heading to the Dublin mountains whenever the opportunity arose. We completed 500kms and 7900m of climbing in 4 days cycling and it was wonderful. However, my right arm started to swell and lymphodema is a constant concern for me. I am still trying to figure out what is normal for me with this new me, when every tweak or ache is cause for anxiety. I would love to chat to other people o the same journey to try and map my way through it. I would love to complete in Ironman again but I don’t know if this is ‘too much’ right now, given swimming is a slow and painful crawl back to fitness. I know I will continue to train as this is so important to me, it’s part of who I am and I need it for my mental sanity, listening to my new body is the new normal I am grappling with.