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Hodgkin Lymphoma at 31: From Chemo to a Triathlon

Real Women, Real Stories

by Heather D.

As a child and a teenager, I was fairly sedentary and always pudgy. In college, I became quite overweight. Afterwards, I started to become more active, made small changes to my diet, started exercising more (and enjoying it more!) and lost the college weight. In July of 2006, I started working out with a trainer, created a food plan, learned how to beat cravings and took off the last of the "baby fat." For the first time in my life, I wasn't overweight. I felt great. Not too long after, in May of 2007, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, one type of cancer of the lymph system. I had a tumor running the length of my entire right lung; fluid build-up made it difficult to breathe. I never thought I'd hear the words "you have cancer," much less at 31 years old. Within hours, I had readied myself to face it head-on.

After six months of chemotherapy and a month of radiation, I began the slow process of reclaiming my body; I re-learned how to eat well, became vegetarian, began wearing sunscreen all the time and started working out again.

In June of 2008 I learned how to swim for sport, and this past January I registered for a sprint triathlon, which I will be completing in only three more weeks! I feel great, I look great and my body is as healthy as ever!

My advice for anyone looking to reclaim their body, from whatever has made it less than optimal:

1. Set small, reasonable goals: You can revisit and adjust them every few months

2. Expect that it will take time: The smaller your goals, the faster you can meet them, so if you need lots of "hooray, I did it!" affirmations, set weekly or even daily goals

3. Give yourself healthy rewards: If you are rewarding yourself for meeting goals, and weight loss is a goal, choose something as a reward that is not edible - edible rewards reinforce emotional eating

4. Accept that setbacks are part of the journey, and take them in stride (I lost two months of running and biking due to a hamstring injury)

5. Consider changes to be permanent: I was an ice cream addict. Giving up ice cream wasn't going to work, but permitting myself to have one serving of ice cream per day helped me manage the issue without depriving myself

More of my story can be read at:
My training blog is:

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