Multisports: Sandy puts hellish year in the past

By Peter Thornton

Sandy McConnell is looking forward and wants to put cancer behind her.
Sandy McConnell is looking forward and wants to put cancer behind her.

Sandy McConnell is not looking back.

You can understand that after the journey she and her family have been on in the past year and a half.

The antique dealer in her mid-40s was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and has endured a gruelling recovery including surgery and six months of chemotherapy to get back to full fitness.

"It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, especially as it was over such a long period of time," said McConnell of the chemotherapy.

"It is easy to take good health and feeling good for granted, anyone who has had chemo will know how awful you feel for a lot of the time. I was lucky, though, I had superb care and I never ended up in hospital with immune-related problems.

"The lowest point was probably when my husband was knocked off his bike by a car and broke two bones in his neck. Our life was pretty challenging for a while but it is amazing how you can find new sources of energy to get through trying times."

Almost two years on, McConnell has hope again. Getting back into fitness has played a part in restoring happiness to her life.

She has a sporting background in swimming, mountain biking and running. She has run two half marathons and a couple of 10km races. It was hard to get back into running after the chemo.

"Initially it felt ghastly, but now is not too bad. I know that I can do it as I have done it before, but my body is not really back to normal yet so I haven't done as much training as I should have."

She was inspired to take part in the 10km of The Legend next weekend.

"I felt like a fun challenge, one that made you feel good, so I opted for the 10km as I knew that this year the half would be too difficult for me. I ran The Legend Half Marathon a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. The course runs through the area that I live in so I am used to running on hills."

It is not hard to be inspired by the attitude of McConnell.

Aaron Carter, of total sport, says it is always special hearing the stories of the wide range of athletes who take part in their events.

"I never cease to be amazed and overawed by the journeys that some of these people have taken to get to the various start and finish lines in their lives."

McConnell knows that she wouldn't have recovered as well without the enduring support of her husband and daughter.

Completing the 10km run is a special feeling for any athlete. Crossing the finish line is going to be an emotional experience for the McConnell family.

She has trained as much as she can fitting in around three runs a week.

"I probably haven't done enough to get a good time, but my aim is to just finish. I spend more time in the pool than running."

McConnell is also preparing for the 3:5:3 triathlon in October - which is a mini-triathlon as part of the ITU World Championship. Her husband is competing in the sprint tri and her daughter in the kids' tri. It will be a special family outing where the McConnells can celebrate being on the other side of their hard times.

Sandy has some good advice for people overcoming cancer or adversity in their own lives.

"Everyone's situation is different but I found encouragement reading stories of cancer patients who not only come through their treatment but do so with a positive outlook," she said. "Now I try not to think about the last year and prefer to look forward."

- NZ Herald

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