Team Phoenix Soars With the Spirit of Survivorship

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When the going gets tough, the tough start swimming, biking and running

There's an old saying that necessity is the mother of invention. When grappling with a breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment regimen, patients follow the expert advice of their doctors. With support from their medical team, along with family and friends, each patient gathers strength to fight cancer with the utmost resolve.

For members of Team Phoenix, that fight includes pushing themselves to achieve a fitness goal - training for and completing their first sprint distance triathlon. The Athleta Iron Girl Pleasant Prairie Women’s Triathlon consists of a one-half mile swim, 12 mile bike ride and 3.1 mile run. This medically-directed fitness program, sponsored through Aurora Sinai Medical Center, is available to all breast cancer survivors with the Aurora Health Care system.

A program developed by Dr. Judy Tjoe, a breast cancer surgeon at Aurora Sinai and a fitness enthusiast, her goal is to encourage and assist breast cancer patients and survivors to regain physical fitness after cancer treatment.

As members of Team Phoenix, training for a sprint distance triathlon will encourage adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors to ultimately improve prognosis and quality of life for the participants. A formal 14-week training program began this spring.

"Our breast cancer survivors are not just training for their first triathlon. Our hope is that our athletes, during this journey, also regain a sense of being alive and strong during the training process and they learn to be comfortable with their bodies again," said Dr. Tjoe.

Through generous support from individuals and members of the community, their training will culminate with the women participating as members of Team Phoenix in the Athleta Iron Girl Pleasant Prairie Women’s Triathlon in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. We'd especially like to thank our corporate partners, including Lands' End, Chocolate Factory, Trifaster, Jewish Community Center, Sportline, Lock Laces, YMCA, Wheel & Sprocket, Marquette University, Urban Trends Salon, and Instep, for their generous support.

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"I am swimming for my father who died of cancer in Jan 2007. Biking for my mom who thereafter went in for herself and found she had breast cancer in summer 2007. And running for myself who found out I had it days after my mother’s final radiation treatment! I'm going to keep running ahead of this thing, I won't let it catch me!" - Tracey Schnick


"I would like to say THANK YOU to the team leaders, instructors, volunteers, teammates and all that are making this experience possible!!! I know that we have barely gotten started but you all have made my life better already. I have known that I need to start exercising since I completed treatment, almost 4 years ago, but have not managed to do it on my own. From the bottom of my heart, I THANK EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU!!!" - Rita Zimmermann

Cheer Team Phoenix on towards the finish line! Show your support of our spirited breast cancer survivors through the Team Phoenix Breast Health Fund. Your gift, in any amount, can change a life – and bring hope and courage to a woman coping with cancer. Make a secure online donation today!

*All photos courtesy of Leslie Waltke of Aurora Health Care and Sean Kennedy, Aurora Health Care volunteer.