Not The Only One – Alison: Tail End Trier
Tail End Trier
It’s now over 5 years since I was told I needed a mastectomy. It was a huge shock. I’d no lump or any other symptoms. I’d gone for my first mammogram age 54 and thought nothing of it until a week later when the follow up letter dropped through the letterbox. As soon as my surgeon mentioned an implant (I’m a curvy girl!) I knew reconstruction wasn’t for me. However, I went away and did some research which just confirmed my gut feeling. It also led me to discover Flat Friends. I was lucky – my cancer was picked up very early and despite being aggressive, my tumour was too small to justify chemotherapy. Nor did I need radiation or hormone therapy. It was surgery 4 weeks after diagnosis, a few physiotherapy sessions and that was it. All I needed to do was spend a fortune on new bras, revamp my wardrobe – no more low cut tops – and move on. Of course, it wasn’t that simple. I suffered from fatigue in the months after the operation and emotionally I found it hard going coping with a new body shape and the anxiety that goes with any cancer diagnosis. I also knew I needed to sort out my fitness. I started running with couch to 5k and surprised myself by actually enjoying it. It was around this time that triathlon first got mentioned. A group from Flat Friends were going to do a women only triathlon the following summer. For some reason I said “count me in”! Never mind that I could only swim breaststroke with my head out the water. Or that I hadn’t ridden a bike in 25 years. Or that my hip was complaining about all this running. I signed up. There then followed 6 months of trying to get my body to move. I booked swimming lessons and learned front crawl. I bought a bike and started pedalling round my local park. And I kept power walking while trying to sort out that bothersome hip.

Triathlon day was amazing (you can read a full account here). The camaraderie, the support and the sheer thrill of achieving something I never thought I could do. I wasn’t fast. It certainly wasn’t graceful, but I got round and could call myself a triathlete.

What I didn’t realise was that day was just the start.

Having caught the exercise bug, I kept going.

The following year I did a couple of iconic open water swims – the Great North Swim in Lake Windermere and the Dee (half) Mile at Chester. Plus another triathlon. Open water swimming became a passion but I also continued to cycle and run (my hip finally sorting itself out). The next year I really went for it with 4 triathlons, including my first attempt at Olympic distance (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10k run). I bought myself a road bike and learned to ride “clipped in”.

I’ve now done many triathlons, aquathlons (swim & run), open water swims and 10k runs. It really has completely changed my life. The one thing that hasn’t changed is that I’m still slow and you’ll invariably find me at the back of the pack. My swimming is adequate, my cycling weak and my running definitely more tortoise than hare.

What I do have is bags of determination and ability to keep going. Triathlon has brought me fitness, friendship and rebuilt the confidence that cancer shook.

And now I’m using it to start a new venture – an online triathlon club for “back of the pack” triathletes. Called Tail End Triers; it’s a community for anyone who loves to swim, bike and run. A place to come for encouragement, motivation and support without feeling too old, slow or the wrong shape.

These days I hardly notice my lopsided body shape. It’s who I am now. I possess an impressive collection of false boobs (my aqua knocker has seen me through most of my events). I grumble about the lack of mastectomy sports bras for anyone larger than a D cup. I have a wobble when my annual check-up comes around. But life is good.

Check out Alison’s website and follow her on Instagram @alisonwrentri
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