Sindy Hooper, a guest on the Sept. 24 episode of The Social, is a remarkable Canadian woman who has truly taken life by the horns. Having recently completed the gruelling Ironman triathlon while battling pancreatic cancer, Sindy exemplifies the true spirit of heroism.
Here is Sindy's story, abridged from her blog:
My name is Sindy. I live in Ottawa and spend most of my time as a mom, wife and triathlete. I love to swim, bike and run. 2012 was a very special and memorable year for me as I trained for my first Ironman and tried, for the first time, to qualify for the Hawaii Ironman World Championship.
In June, I raced a half Ironman (2 km swim, 90 km bike, 21.1 km run) in Cambridge, Maryland, and missed qualifying for the Ironman World Championship by one place. In August, I completed my first Ironman (4 km swim, 180 km bike, 42.2 km run) in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. Loved the day – finished in 11 hours and 38 minutes, and missed going to Hawaii by 2 places.
Around my 50th birthday on Dec. 9, I started having some upper abdominal and mid back pain.
On Jan. 1, I was exceptionally tired after a 15 km slow run and on Jan. 2 my eyes looked jaundiced. Jon [Sindy's husband] arranged for blood work and an ultrasound that afternoon at The Civic Hospital, thinking I might have gall stones.
After an exceptionally long ultrasound, the radiologist told me I had a malignant tumour on my pancreas, a cancer. Shock, disbelief, my world felt shattered. How is this possible when I'm in the best shape of my life?
I soon learned that the predisposing factors for pancreatic cancer are smoking, obesity, age over 55, African American heritage, pancreatitis, and diabetes. I had none of them. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in Canada.
I had a CT scan the next day on Jan. 3 to find out if the tumour I had was able to be removed or not. On Jan. 4, I had an appointment with a really great surgeon, who confirmed that I should have surgery as soon as possible.
On Jan. 7, I was admitted to hospital and on Jan. 8 I had surgery. I had a Whipple Procedure that lasted seven hours and removed half of my pancreas, a third of my stomach, my gallbladder and duodenum. I woke to learn the tumour had been removed.
Pathology showed that there was no spread to lymph nodes, blood vessels or nerves, however, there were microscopic tumours left in two spots. I started chemotherapy on Feb. 19, once a week for six months.
When I registered for Ironman Canada last year my goal was to finish in 11 hours, make it onto my age group podium and earn my spot to race at the Hawaii Ironman World Championship. My goal now is to train for Ironman Canada, having as much fun as I can, while raising awareness about pancreatic cancer, and raising money to support pancreatic cancer research.