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I signed up to a triathlon after breast cancer

When Sophie Vann found the end of treatment difficult to cope with, a new challenge helped get her back on track.

You can have all these good intentions and ideas about how you’re going to deal with treatment for cancer. I’m a PE teacher and my fitness levels at the time my treatment started were pretty high.

When I had surgery I was of the opinion that nothing was going to stop me from getting out on my bike and going to the gym. My fitness definitely helped me get through the first session of chemotherapy but after the second session I couldn’t get up let alone try to do anything else. For me chemotherapy flattened me.

Something changed

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2012 aged 38. I noticed a difference in my breast. There was no lump there was just a sense that something had changed about my breast. Something was different.

I was diagnosed with a grade 3 cancer and within a week I was in for surgery. I had a lumpectomy and a second operation to get a clear margin followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

In a funny kind of way the hospital treatments became my new routine. Where before I was in the gym three times a week I was now back and forth to the hospital.

What I couldn’t cope with was when it all stopped and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I wasn’t well enough to go back to training again but I wasn’t ill in the sense that I needed to keep going to the hospital.

The loss of attention of the medics was hard to cope with. I was really low and I went to see my GP and he suggested approaching charities.

Help is at hand

I went on one of the Moving Forward courses which really helped. I think it was the fact that all of the sessions were by people with really specialist knowledge of their areas.

There was a talk on anxiety and stopping anxiety becoming panic that was really useful. A breast care nurse spoke to us about recurrence and we were able to ask lots of questions.

The health and fitness talk had a real impact on me. I was eating all the wrong things and had put on weight and I couldn’t really train. The woman running the session suggested putting something in the diary – a target or goal.

So I signed up for a triathlon which was quite extreme but now I had a new focus.

Mission accomplished

It was an amazing feeling crossing the finish line months later.

Like breast cancer a triathlon tests you mentally and physically. The race proved to me that I was well again and not dealing with cancer any more.

My body had got better but my mind had not. That day helped me move on to a new phase of my life and leave cancer behind.

Support for moving forward

Our Moving Forward courses are designed to help you get back to normal after treatment for breast cancer. We'll connect you with tools to help you feel confident and people who understand.

Moving Forward courses

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