Have you met Ellen??
Ellen has been a long time member of Deliberate Strength. If you've met Ellen, you know she'll be the first person to introduce herself and make you feel welcome. Not many people exude their love for life quite like Ellen does!
But, as we all know, life has crazy ups and downs and no one is immune from those challenges. Not even Ellen.
Ellen's story is amazing; her mental attitude and approach to her challenges are truly inspiring;
Why do you train?
I train to keep myself strong and healthy. I train so that as I age I can continue to do the things I love like biking, swimming, and hiking. I train to challenge myself, physically and mentally, to do things I might have doubts that I can do. I train because it is actually enjoyable. It is a connection to other people with the same mindset. And most of all, I train because I love it. I love how it makes me feel after a solid workout, that feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. No matter what my mood, I always feel happier after a workout."
Where are you now? What challenges have you had to overcome?
One year ago this month, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It was a rollercoaster of emotions and feelings and physical struggles from that day forward for many months to come. I was in disbelief as to how I could possibly have cancer. I live a healthy life. I take care of myself.
I did all the right things, but cancer doesn’t care and it knows no boundaries.
I was set to race in a World Championship race in Almere, Netherland in September 2020 with Team USA and even this was now in question.
On March 6, 2020, I had a left mastectomy. The recovery was to be 8 weeks long with minimal use of my left arm. I accepted this and complied, knowing the consequences of loss physical endurance and muscle atrophy but vowed it would give me the determination to fight my way back.
The 8 weeks turned into months as I endured complication after complication after complication. I had multiple drains placed, another surgery, a hospital stay and eventually a blood clot in my arm and had to deal with the repercussions of that for months as well. By June, I was back in the gym. By September, I was off my blood thinners and back riding my bike outside.
As rough as the road was, I learned a lot about myself. I can truly endure a lot.
You wonder that sometimes as an endurance athlete…. how much can I really endure. I am mentally much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for and I was so thankful to be in the shape I was in as that made a huge difference in my body being able to respond to each hit of more complications.
I also learned that I have amazing support systems.
All of my close friends and family and friends from the DS family really became an intricate part of my mental recovery from all of the continuous setbacks.
Now, one year later, I am back training at 100%. I am set to return to the World Championship race in Almere, Netherland in September 2021 with Team USA (if the pandemic allows).
But even if I don’t get to race, I am so thankful to be able to do the things I am doing and that in itself brings me joy.
I am so thankful to have regained full mobility in my left arm. I am so thankful to be able to return to my pre-cancer fitness level. I am so thankful to be able to return to a life in which I can forget that the cancer ever happened."
How does that make you feel now?
Looking back at the last year, it feels like yesterday and a decade ago. It is still fresh enough that I can still feel the emotional scars from all of the struggles. I will always have the physical scar to remind me.
But my perspective is changing… I am now able to look at those scars and be proud of myself for weathering all I had to endure and I feel less sad for the losses.
This experience has changed my life. Nothing will be the same again and instead of that fact bringing grief to my life, I am embracing the opportunity I have been given. This has given me personal opportunities for growth on many fronts.
It has provided me with connection to others that one cannot have unless you have gone through it. I have already had the opportunity to help others as they navigate this path for the first time.
And much of this growth and fresh perspective is due to being able to getting back to my pre-cancer physical self.
Being able to feel like myself again has given me the confidence to step out of my comfort zone and view things though a new lens. I have the confidence to embrace the new me.. physically and emotionally and to be more authentic.
It has been an experience for sure, one I never thought I would ever have to go through. But looking back, it gave me a restart to life rather than a limitation."
Ellen, thank you so much for being a part of the Deliberate Strength family. Thanks for being such a great example of courage, determination, and joy for us all!