Running for Gold – Celebrating Life After Cancer by Andrea Paine

Running for Gold –  Celebrating Life After Cancer by Andrea Paine

AndreaCFN – The other day I was going through a box of accumulated stuff in my house. In one of the boxes I found a pile of Runner’s World calendars. I use them to record my runs and my usual form of cross training; biking. I would also write down the times that I did weights in the gym.

I started doing this in 2007,  a few months after I had run my first half marathon in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  It was very encouraging to look at the month on my wall, and see all training I had accomplished. I would line the square with a different colour for each; pink for running, green for biking and orange for weights.  It inspired me to keep it up.
Flipping through my calendars, I got to April of 2007. That was the month I was diagnosed with cancer.  My first operation; a lumpectomy was done on April 25th.  I ran a 4k the day prior to my operation. One week later, On May 3rd, I did my first 3k walk (wasn’t allowed to run yet). A couple of walks later, and two weeks after my first operation, I started running again.By the third week of May, I was back on track with my training schedule, and by early June, I had run 13.1k, or half marathon distance.
During this time I had received the unfortunate news that the first operation was unsuccessful. The margins were not clear. We were now discussing a mastectomy.
But running kept me company during the hot summer months leading up to the double mastectomy operation scheduled for August 3rd, 2007. The operation lasted ten and a half hours, and I was in the hospital for one week; a long time in hospital standards here. For six long weeks I was recovering at home. I had strict instructions from my surgeon to stay at home, and for a few weeks, was not even able to walk off my property. It would cause serious damage, if I was to fall.
I was allowed to start running on September 10th. I have a big “OK TO START RUNNING” written in the square on my calendar for that day. I ran a 1k. Underneath my distance I wrote “very difficult”. But I kept up with it and slowly started increasing the mileage.
Again, and as fate would have it, I was not out of the woods yet. They had removed 17 lymph nodes during surgery as they had found traces of cancer cells. I started the first of eight chemotherapy treatments on September 20th that same year. Running had become my lifeline at this time. I was running an average of three times per week, and even ran a 5k race in Ottawa, Ontario on October 28th.
You see, running was good for my health; even then. Even when I was weakened by surgery and chemo. Even when I had a high level of stress in my life.  As hard as it may seem, continuing with an exercise regime improved my outlook, helped reduce my side affects from chemo, and lightened my mood. I may not have covered the distances I would have as a healthy person, but the distances I covered mentally and spiritually were even better.
And my daughters saw, first hand, how to act in the face of difficulty.  I hope this will be a comfort to them later in their lives. When I look back at this time in my life, I even surprise myself! I was a gold medal winner in the race of life.

A gifted writer, Andrea Paine has been writing speeches for cabinet Ministers and members of the National Assembly and of Parliament throughout her years in politics. More recently, she turned her talents to writing an inspirational blog found at, and is a published author,  with a chapter in a book by British journalist, Chris Geiger.  Andrea has also been involved in public speaking, having been on the speaker’s circuit on behalf of the St-Mary’s Hospital breast cancer foundation in 2011, as well as a presenter, in 2012 and 2013, for the Federated Press Annual Conference on “Working with Ministers and Parliament” in Ottawa.


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One Response to "Running for Gold – Celebrating Life After Cancer by Andrea Paine"

  1. Shirley   February 17, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    Thank you so much Andrea for sharing your experience of continuing your commitment to your own wellness despite a such a terrifying diagnosis and grueling treatment plan- I think you are a heroine!

    I can so relate to the benefit of a physically demanding fitness regimen, it has dramatically improved my life to hire a personal trainer and to go to the gym, now for over a year, twice a week to exercise. It has given me a new-found confidence and internal strength, not like anything else that I practice in my wellness plan- there is no substitute for exercise! I would like to start running and your story inspires me to pursue that goal. May you always be surrounded with healing and grace, with gratitude. S

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