Colon Cancer Patient Participates in Ironman Race

Five years ago, Laura Webb, 32, was neck deep in training for the Ironman triathlon. This is a 140.6 miles competition split up into three events: biking, running and swimming. Her first attempt to complete the Ironman race was a failure, but this is almost to be expected in the world of a triathlon athlete. This Tampa insurance owner was nowhere near quitting. Webb trained vigorously, with 60-mile bike rides and long-distance running every single weekend.

But necessity disturbed her hard work when Webb was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer during a colonoscopy for abdominal pain. Before long, the athlete’s daily exercise routine was replaced with grueling chemotherapy sessions drawn out over several months. Webb also had to undergo intensive colon cancer surgery. Her dream of completing a triathlon disappeared in an instant. Webb has said that in retrospect she should have known of the disease sooner, but colon cancer was the last thing on her mind while she trained for the race. She is now 37 years old.

As with many patients who find out that they have colon cancer, Webb thought the world had ended as soon as the doctor gave her the diagnosis. Her long-term plans were tossed out of the window and, instead, she focused on living from day-to-day. Webb said that she stopped talking about retirement and financial plans.

Colon cancer is on number 3 on America’s list of deadliest cancers. However, many fail to realize that colon cancer is highly treatable when diagnosed in its earlier stages. Pre-cancerous polyps that are still localized can be removed during colonoscopy preventing the colon cancer from spreading to other organs. Unfortunately for Webb, her age and the fact that her colon cancer had spread to her liver made treatment quite risky. The odds that she would survive for more than 5 years after her initial colonoscopy was reduced by about 20 percent, according to figures outlined by the National Cancer Institute.

Nonetheless, lead oncologist on Webb’s case, David Wright of the Florida Cancer Specialists, said that the athlete faced her dreary prognosis with the same strength of mind she had developed during her triathlon training.  Colon cancer chemotherapy is not for the faint of heart. But Webb came out of her colon cancer surgery and almost 3 years of colon cancer recovery treatment as strong as she could have. Webb’s fantastic physical shape at the time of colon cancer treatment was a great factor in her recovery. She also kept a positive attitude about the colon cancer throughout her difficult treatment, refusing to give in to the depression that often befell other colon cancer patients.

Sophie Dessureault, a Moffitt Cancer Center oncologist, said that every colon cancer victim faces the condition in their own manner, and it is crucial for the colonoscopy doctors to take the lead during treatment.

Webb still had her eye on the Ironman Triathlon.  9 months after she was diagnosed with colon cancer, Webb went back to the gym. She and her physical trainer worked hard to regain the muscle tone she used to have, but it wasn’t easy. She spent months training to walk the entirety of a half marathon. In the end the feat was physically draining, but Webb felt happy to have at least completed the shorter race.

A year and a half after that, Webb registered for the 2009 Ironman triathlon. She was still in the middle chemotherapy sessions for the colon cancer, but she found a way to make training and treatment work together. The actual race was an emotional victory above all. She finished the race after 16 hours, 27 minutes and 46 seconds.

Dr. Dessureault said that colon cancer patients that cross the 5-year milestone will likely have a reoccurrence. According to the National Cancer Institute, only 65 percent of colon cancer patients will actually make it this far.

Webb’s 5-year mark is coming up in August. It has been a long and painful road for her since that fateful colonoscopy. She expressed a desire to honor all those colon cancer patients who had not survived as long as she has. Webb is now determined to help others value their health above all else and help them to see by her hopeful example that a cancer diagnosis is not the end of the road.

For more information about diagnosing colon cancer, please do not hesitate to contact certified colonoscopy doctors listed in the DoctorQA medical directory.