There was no inkling for Sindy Hooper when she quit her job to tackle an Ironman triathlon after learning a friend had ovarian cancer that she would soon be in a race for her own life against the disease.
“It’s just devastating. I went from being very healthy and thinking I would live to 85 to being faced with this disease,” Hooper said of her pancreatic cancer diagnosis, which came shortly after her 50th birthday Dec. 9. “You look at the stats and it’s a very fatal cancer,” she added citing that 94 per cent of all people with pancreatic cancer die within five years. “I have to stay hopeful.”
Never one to back down from a challenge, Hooper continues to train seven hours a week despite chemotherapy, a complex surgery to remove the tumor in January and upcoming radiation treatment—and still plans to race the all-day event in Whistler this August.
“Getting back to those things makes me feel healthy and normal again,” she said of her training. “I’m training 50 per cent of what I did before at 60 per cent of the effort. This year is not about qualifying for the Ironman world championship in Hawaii but to raise money for pancreatic cancer.”
Four years ago, Hooper quit her job as a healthcare administrator to pursue her goal of racing against the world’s best triathletes at the annual Hawaii event after a good friend was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “It was a reminder for me that life can be short,” she said of the diagnosis. “This became such a big dream for me.”
Hooper intends to cross the finish line with her husband Jon, a physician, wearing special racing gear decked out with a purple ribbon on the side and pancreatic cancer logo on the back to raise $5,000 for research of the disease.
“Pancreatic cancer doesn’t get a lot of funding,” she said. “People die so quickly there aren’t enough people out there to be spokespersons.”
So far Hooper has raised $872 toward that goal. Leading up to the summer race she will drum up more backing by tackling Ottawa Race Weekend May 25 with 50 friends and supporters as well as a number of other races including an Ottawa to Kingston bike ride.
“I’ve been floored by the amount of support I’ve received throughout all of this,” she said tearfully. “People tell me that it really inspires them. That’s important for me.”
During her first full Ironman triathlon at Mont-Tremblant in August 2012, Sindy Hooper racked up some impressive numbers and blew the cut off time of 17 hours to finish the event out of the water. She placed sixth in her age group.
Swimming: 3.86 km
Sindy’s time: 1:10:04
Cycling: 180 km
Sindy’s time: 6:18:30
Running: 42.2 km
Sindy’s time: 3:50:58
Total time: 11:38:17