Cape Town - "I have just run an ultra marathon. How can this be happening to me?”
That was the sombre assessment by Teresa Wilson after being diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer.
But her never-say-die spirit which encapsulates the character of the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon athlete, and the dramatic events of the next year, which underlines the importance of PinkDrive’s motto that early detection saves lives, will serve as an inspirations to a new generation of South African athletes and fans for decades to come.
The athlete will embark on her seventh Two Oceans Ultra Marathon on Saturday after a prolonged and successful fight with breast cancer.
It is the manner in which Wilson learned of her cancer-setback in 2012 that is a chilling reminder of how cruel life can be.
She ran her first Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in 2011 in preparation of running the Comrades in honour of her father who had died of cancer.
Back in 2012 for her second ultra marathon, Wilson ran a good race on April 7 and was thrilled with her achievement when she went for her routine annual mammogram. Thirty minutes after the appointment started, the grim realisation dawned on her: she would have to take a year out of her life to fight breast cancer.
“I was formally diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer and started six months of chemotherapy, followed by surgery and 33 sessions of radiation,” she said.
“I decided I didn’t have 12 months and communicated to my oncologist that I wanted to go on holiday on December 12 so we had roughly nine months to plan and execute my treatment plan so that I could be back on the road as soon as possible.
“I had to let go of the idea of getting my back-to-back medal at the Comrades in 2012 but I still want to support my friends and all the runners in what was an epic, emotional and incredibly inspiring day for me. It was then that I decided that cancer would only take on Comrades from me and that I will be back in 2013,” she said.
She underwent surgery on October 10, 2012 and was told by the surgeon that she could starting running again after three weeks as she only had a lumpectomy. On October 31 she had her first run back on the road.
“It felt incredible and I had a wonderful sense of victory and courage. I did my first 21km at Dischem Half on January 13, 2013, followed by the Sasolburg Marathon and went onto run my third Two Oceans Ultra Marathon,” said Wilson.
“That is when I decided to become part of the PinkDrive family as an ambassador and a spokesperson as I believed I’m proof that early detection saves lives. I am actually involved in fund-raising for PinkDrive on an annual basis through my Two Oceans and Comrades runs.
“On Saturday, April 15, I am hoping to complete my seventh consecutive Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in preparation for my sixth Comrades Marathon.
I kicked cancer’s butt!”
PinkDrive, one of South Africa’s premier cancer awareness organisations, has completed 11 688 mammograms since its inception in 2011. It has also carried out 109 019 clinical breast examinations. More than 300 000 women have been educated on breast health by the organisation the past six years.