GAZELLE STL Vol. 1 Issue 3. - Page 40

Expect With Confidence Teri Griege is the very definition of hope By Erin Williams When it comes to running a triathlon, seasoned athletes know that achieving a decent finish is all about training hard and pacing yourself. Over time, you get to know your body’s strengths and hardships, and what it takes to be a better competitor. You also know when to back off and let your body rest. But just because you know something is wrong doesn’t mean you acknowledge it - especially when you’re in the middle of training for your second triathlon, like Teri Griege was in 2009. She had completed her first Ironman race in Louisville, Kentucky the year before and came close to qualifying for the big competition in Kona, Hawaii, so she decided to try again. The race involves swimming two and fourtenths miles in open water, riding a bicycle for 112 miles, and running a twenty-six-and twotenths-mile marathon. Naturally, your body is likely to exhibit all types of side effects. “I was just kind of sluggish, more tired than usual. I had some road rash from my bike that wasn’t healing very quickly, and I had some rectal bleeding, but I thought ‘Well, I’m riding 38 GAZELLE STL 100 miles, seventy miles, fifty miles at a time,” she said. She attributed it to overtraining, but when the bleeding didn’t go away after the race, she decided to go to a doctor. The last thing she expected for him to uncover was stage four colon cancer with metastases to her liver. “I would be lying if I didn’t say that initially, I was extremely fearful with the diagnosis,” said Teri, a former nurse who was forty-eight that September. “To me, it wasn’t this sense of my body letting me down, it was kind of this sense of amazement. I did an Ironman in under fifteen hours, and fourteen days later was diagnosed with cancer all over my body. To me that’s pretty amazing - that your body can be so healthy and be so sick. Who would have thought?” she contemplated. What followed was an aggressive timeline of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and a colon and liver resection, where parts of both organs were removed. More rounds of chemotherapy followed, but her body still had metastatic cells inside. She now undergoes chemotherapy treatments every other week - her routine for the past four years - and discovered last fall that the cancer had spread to her lungs. “I don’t really know any different now because I never went off chemo,” she said of what she calls “maintenance chemo.” Two weeks after her diagnosis, Teri’s older sisters were prompted to get colonoscopies of their own. Her eldest sister found out she had precancerous polyps; her middle sister was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. “Nobody wants to talk about colon cancer. Nobody wants to talk about that part of their body...it’s embarrassing,” she said. “The reason I am so adamant about doing this and sharing my story is because number one, colon cancer is the only cancer that can be prevented. And it’s prevented by screening and having colonoscopies, which at age fifty is when you’re supposed to have one. And if you have a family history, you have to start earlier.” Teri is no stranger to challenge - she’s been a recovering alcoholic for twenty-one years, and credits the twelve-step program taught in Alcoholics Anonymous as “great tools for living, a great outline for life - and that really, I think played a big role in helping me accept, adjust and walk this cancer journey a day at a time.” She continued living her life as normally as possible - running, raising her two teenaged children, and realizing that in fighting this disease, she was going to need all the help she could muster. “Going from this woman who was training for an Ironman... and then realizing that this was a beast way bigger than me, and that I was really going to have to call in and accept help from all kinds of people - that was definitely an eye-awakening moment,” she said. In researching her disease, she discovered that stage four colon cancer has a six percent, five-year survival rate. “Somebody told me a story about a person that had thyroid cancer- a rare form - and they had a one percent chance - and ]