Terrie Hoops, a stage III breast cancer survivor, is originally from Montreal, Canada, and now resides in Venice.
When were you diagnosed and at what age?
I was diagnosed in 2012 at age 43. I was on my way to Florida from Portland, Maine, with my husband David for a golf getaway. My doctor had called me the morning I was leaving and told me they wanted to repeat a mammogram due to what he thought were calcifications on my scan. Upon my arrival at the Tampa airport I received a voice mail to call the doctor’s office back immediately. I knew this could not be great news. My doctor told me it looked like breast cancer.
While approaching the 9th hole on one of our favorite golf courses, I received a call from the breast cancer center needing detailed patient history in preparation for my upcoming appointment. After my husband and I sat in our golf cart going over the family history, we drove up to the 9th hole. David looked at me and said, “looks like you’re up.” So, the next thing that happened paved my way on how I was to deal with cancer. I stepped up to the tee and crushed a drive straight down the middle of the fairway. I had a choice: I could give up or drive on!
What kind of treatment did you receive?
Double mastectomy, radiation, full hysterectomy. I refused chemotherapy.
What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
I had a winged shoulder blade from hitting the long thoracic nerve in surgery. I lost usage of my right arm and got it back in physical therapy.
What was the most challenging part of your experience?
Accepting my new body and deciding to move on. I actually got a full chest tattoo to help embrace my body and scars.
Where did you find the greatest support?
David, my husband. Before every appointment we had a “date night” so I looked more forward to the dinner and brushed off the scary appointment. I also got my therapy dog Max from this experience.
What have you learned about yourself through this experience?
I can do anything I set my mind to. I do not go through life with the emergency brake on! I had always been an athlete, and I knew that moving my body always gave me a sense of strength and connectedness. I loved to do triathlons, mostly sprint triathlons which are fairly short. I was starting to realize what I should do.
An Ironman Triathlon is a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, followed by a 26.2-mile run. And it has to be completed within 17 hours. How do you train for such an event? The same way you get through cancer, one day at a time. Staying present and focusing on the goal. With cancer, the goal is to be cancer free. With the Ironman, it was to hear the words as I crossed the finish line — “Terrie Hoops, you are an Ironman.”
My dream did come true. Three years after diagnosis, I completed the Ironman Triathlon in 12 hours, 21 minutes, and 12 seconds. And my body was healthy.
The slogan of the Ironman is “Anything is Possible.” I know just how true that is!
What advice would you share with others?
Not to give up! Not to feel sorry for yourself! Focus on what is great each day and more of that will manifest. Trust in that inner voice and stop listening to the nay-sayers. I love to share at speaking engagements and I know from feedback I have helped others. I love feeling through my lessons I can help others on their journeys. Life does not happen to us, it happens for us. This is a gift.