Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Culture

Running Kept Her Spirit Alive During Breast Cancer Treatment

After being diagnosed with—and cured of—breast cancer, this runner had to find a new running normal during treatment and beyond.

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

treatment

DARA INSLEY
AGE: 43
Cary, NC
Mom

In 2009, I started having some health complications and my doctor recommended a mammogram. While waiting for results, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon. I’d been running for a number of years at that point and didn’t want to let a cancer scare deter me from my goal. It was awesome to complete the race, but I felt terrible throughout. I was so exhausted, I had to walk for many of the miles, mulling over whether or not I had a life-threatening disease.

A few weeks later, I received a positive diagnosis. I had breast cancer. Instead of being terrified, in some ways I felt relieved that I knew what was going on with my body.

For 10 months the treatments consumed my life. During that time, I would run across the Sky Bridge at the MD Anderson Hospital in Houston. Even just 15 minutes of exercise felt like a major accomplishment. The cancer treatments were taxing, and I needed something to revive me. For me, running kept my spirit alive during and after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Finally, my treatments came to a close in September of 2010. But with this disease, you have to find a new normal. Even after they removed the breast cancer, I was left with lymphedema, a condition that made my limbs swell abnormally. I decided that I wouldn’t let this side effect prevent me from getting back into racing shape.

I went back to the same race, the Marine Corps Marathon, a month after my treatments. This time, I ran to raise money for the American Cancer Society and prove to myself that I was back. Crossing the finish line, I was overcome with a profound sense of gratitude that I was still able to get out there, to breathe, to move.

MY BEST ADVICE: STAY AWARE AND RUN ON.

As many as 56 percent of women who undergo breast cancer surgery develop lymphedema within two years post-surgery—and the risk can remain for 30 more years. It’s important to know these stats but never to let them get in the way of your goals. I was able to keep running by wearing compression sleeves. My favorites are trendy printed ones from LympheDivas!