Body Betrayal: How to finish what cancer started

Body Betrayal: How to finish what cancer started
Allison Brown
Allison Brown
Allison Brown
Allison Brown

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Ironman Triathlon:

Swim 2.4 miles.

Bike 112.

Run 26.2.

It sounds grueling.

It's nothing compared to life sometimes.

"My doctor called me one Friday morning and said, 'We're referring you to an oncologist,'" Ironman entrant Allison Brown said. "I'm like, 'Excuse me?' And she said, 'Yeah, I'm really sorry; we think you have cancer.'"

The PET scan glowed where it's not supposed to glow, signaling Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

"That was one of those moments when I got up out of my bed and just started pacing, like no, no, no this cannot be happening to me," Brown said. "I worked so hard to get to where I am. I have everything set up. Planned my life. This cannot be happening."

When you have to battle cancer, you suit up, jump in, and do whatever it takes. Often it feels like you're swimming upstream.

"Sitting there in that chair watching this red poison come into your chest was surreal, scary, sad," Brown said. "It's a trauma to go through a cancer diagnosis, go through treatment, kind of feel like your body has completely let you down, and so I was kind of looking for a way to fight back."

After they pulled out the port, and the cancer went away, the Louisville attorney fought back by paddling and pedaling and targeting a triathlon -- the 140-mile Ironman.

"I was not a cyclist at all," she said. "First time I rode 20 miles, I said, 'Yeah I'm awesome I did this. Then I thought, 'How am I ever going to be able to do this five times plus 12 miles?"

She celebrated five years' cancer-free by finishing Ironman Louisville. Twenty percent of Hodgkin's Lymphoma patients don't make it five years.

"I cried," Brown said. "I mean I cried, doubled over and I cried because it was a relief. I was proud. I was happy. I was excited. One of the most thrilling moments of my life."

Now she's back at it, transforming the body that betrayed her once upon a time. She's trying an Ironman sequel.

Like many Ironman triathletes, Brown's effort isn't confined to athletic achievement. She's one of the thousands who've raised $46 million in Ironman competitions over the years, so others may not have to go through what she went through.

"My goal for Ironman this year is to finish," she said. "My goal for Team In Training is to stay involved. My goal is to raise $5,000 for (Leukemia Lymphoma Society). I'm getting close to that goal."

If anything is comparable to the long, painful journey after a cancer diagnosis, it might be the long, painful journey through Ironman.

"Best day ever," Brown said. "Absolutely the best day ever."

Brown knows how both finish lines feel.

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