RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Competing in a triathlon is no easy task. A group of women participating in this weekend's Richmond Sprint Triathlon will be racing as they battle cancer.
Robin Yoder faced a cancer diagnosis not once, but twice. First as a teen, and then again 30 years later.
"The initial anguish it invoked on me was something that I didn't know would ever be manageable," said Yoder.
Yoder, now a two-time cancer survivor, is also an oncology social worker at Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute. For the past 26 years, she's lead a weekly support group for breast cancer patients and survivors at The Hawthorne Cancer Resource Center.
"We talk the real language. I think that's the difference here. We don't pussyfoot around. We talk about the hard stuff; we use the hard words. But we also find joy," said Yoder.
One of the ways the group has found joy is through training for the Richmond Sprint Triathlon.
Yoder and Jennifer Bocrie were both triathletes before their cancer diagnosis, and thought the race would be a way to challenge the other women.
"Cancer was totally scary. We've been through the scary part. This is going to be fun," Yoder said.
Ten women in the support group will tackle the race relay style, with support from the Richmond Triathlon Club. There will be three teams of three people, with a swimmer, biker and runner for each team.
Bocrie, a cancer survivor, will participate in the 400 meter swim.
"I know I needed to do this for myself," she said.
Sharon Rivera-Sanchez, who is currently undoing cancer treatment says she's nervous about cycling 13.5 miles.
"It's like chemo;, you can make it through it. You just got to keep pushing keep pushing. As a support group, we all lean on each other," said Rivera-Sanchez.
Yoder will bike and swim. Her plan for the triathlon is a little different than the other women, as Yoder is an amputee. In 2010, doctors to were forced to amputated her leg during her second cancer diagnosis.
"I was re-diagnosed with a totally different type of cancer that seems to be caused by the cancer treatment that cured me 30 years ago. My right leg was amputated in an effort to save my life," she said.
Even before the amputation, Yoder says she was determined work her way back to competing in races. However, while she was learning to walk again, the idea of coming back to work seemed daunting.
"That was the scariest question I'd even been asked, more so that 'we've got to take your leg.' Why is that? Because I had to walk across a parking lot that I'd never walked that far before without the security of the therapist by my side," said Yoder.
Now seven years later, Yoder's learned not only walk, but run, bike and swim as well.
With the help of her support group, she says grief of her diagnosis, and losing her leg is finally starting to heal.
"You don't need a leg to live. You don't need a breast to live. You don't need hair to live, but you need a heart," said Yoder. "Literally and figuratively, because the heart is where the courage comes from to accept your circumstance."
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