WeissCrax: Getting in SHAPE the hard way

OK, so we’re standing about chest high, side-by-side about one-third down and sharing Lane 4 of UCSB’s Olympic-sized pool,  just over a year ago — our final tune-up for the 2009 Santa Barbara Triathlon – my first ever!

This beautiful chick with the cherubic face (as best one could tell with the pink swim cap & goggles) beamed CONFIDENCE. We would be racing each other towards the shallow end wall.

Instinctively, I knew my you-know-what was about to get kicked!!

Christine Feldman after finishing the 2009 Santa Barbara Triathlon

This relay race was intended as a fun ending to our one-hour aquatic training session but the “MAY DAY” warning siren was already blasting inside my cranium.

Sooooooooo…..

I thought, perhaps, this might be the most opportune moment for the ultimate ‘trump card’ – the first (& only) time ever used.

Half-kidding, half-serious, I offered:

Feldman Family Time often means fun adventures: Christine with her husband John and sons Grant and Scott.

Please don’t kick my %#! – I only have one kidney!

But what she returned, with the biggest smile, left an everlasting impact:

Ha! Get in line! I only have one lung!

YIKES!! OUT-TRUMPED!! (“Hate it when that happens.”)

And so began my friendship with the amazing Christine Leech Feldman – two-time cancer survivor, seasoned triathlete and all-around nice, fun person.

But life wasn’t so easy for her, beginning almost nine years ago, as a young wife and mom with two small boys. During a routine self-inspection in the shower, she discovered a small lump in her right breast.

Cancer.

“Our biggest priority was getting Christine through it in one piece. We really didn’t appreciate the gravity of it at all,” sez Husband Pete – they met 21 years ago at Cal Poly and have been married for the last 16.

Times were tough. There were many, many medical appointments and treatments that zapped her strength and took her hair. Fortunately, an angel named Christi quickly showed up in response to an advertisement for a part-time nanny.

“With me working at Amgen in Thousand Oaks, Christi helped with the boys so Christine could get her rest. Our friends and neighbors helped too. Somehow, we got through it all,” he added.

But four years later — almost exactly to the day and one year shy of that magical ‘cancer–free’ five-year threshold — Christine found another lump in the same area and got it checked out quickly. It confirmed their worst fears – the cancer had returned.

This time, however, the radiation therapy took a toll – extreme damage and scarring to her right lung, leaving her with about half its capacity.

Local support continued in many forms — from oncologist, Dr. Fred Kass, the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara and the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Santa Barbara.

Christine, left, and "tri-friend" Jen Jones at M4L's 2009 Victory Reception.

“While recovering in Santa Barbara after my second bout, I saw a flyer in the hospital about Momentum-4-Life, a local training group. I laughed it off! Here I was trying to get my life back and the last thing I could think about was working out and training for a triathlon. I had never done one, nor even considered it,” she said.

But her husband knew best…

“Cancer becomes your life,” Christine said. “It’s all you ever talk about – the surgeries, the on-going appointments, all the medications. It’s crazy! But I give Pete the credit. He said that a training group and a new focus would give me my life back … and it did.”

Christine is now an accomplished triathlete. Training is an important component of her everyday routine.

“She joined M4L with a body of missing pieces, but what was put back together in completing her first of many triathlons… and what she has given back to us all who have been fortunate enough to be on her team…has been much more than that…we appreciate her courage, openness, wit, creative talent, beauty, friendship…but mostly her sense of humor – it all makes Christine one in six million, at least!” sez Dawn Schroeder, M4L Founder.

“After my first triathlon, my boys saw me as a Mom who had survived two bouts of cancer. When they saw pink, they said ‘there is Mom’s team!’ When I crossed the finish line for my first tri – my kids called me a triathlete! I had a new team! I had a new title! I had a new beginning! Thank you M4L! I love my new team!” exclaimed Christine.

The Feldmans are now back on course with a healthy, active lifestyle – biking, hiking and ski get-aways to Utah – their true love. Sons, Grant (12) and Scott (10) are already talented athletes.

The Feldmans together on a ski trip in Utah.

“We love skiing as a family and for Christine, especially after her cancer treatments, it gave her a renewed sense of freedom on the slopes and a special feeling of control and empowerment over her life,” Pete said.

And now in addition to her new athlete prowess, Christine can add “Super Model” to her impressive credentials – her inspirational story is featured in the October 2010 issue of SHAPE Magazine – a national publication.

“It’s been quite a ride since I was notified over the summer. It was surreal flying back to New York City for a photo shoot. More than anything else, I would like my story to give hope to others. I am doing more now in my life, as an older athlete, than I ever could have imagined. I am accomplishing new goals and achieving more things. I love my life,” she says.

With kids back in school and practicing and playing on Pony League baseball teams, it’s a life on the go-go-go!

Pete relishes every moment of family time, as well, and still makes the daily 110-mile roundtrip commute to his Amgen job. With all his recent very personal “expertise,” he has moved into a new role – Oncology Marketing.

“The last nine years have been a remarkable journey,” he said, “It has given me a totally new perspective – both personally and professionally. Christine survived several surgeries and our family has overcome incredible adversity. Our sons now have a healthy mom to come home to everyday. We feel truly blessed.”

And about Christine’s fortitude about overcoming cancer, not once but twice, Dr. Kass, also a decorated triathlete, said: “Christine is truly amazing. If you are really lucky – you get to be her doctor because she makes you look really good.”

And also looking good with a very powerful personal message from which we can all learn, it’s safe to say that living by example – Christine’s life, now more than ever, has certainly taken SHAPE ….

TOP 10 LIFE LESSONS I LEARNED FROM CHRISTINE FELDMAN

  • Never, ever feel sorry for yourself.
  • Live in every moment.
  • Don’t be a wuss.
  • Attitude is everything.
  • Dream BIG.
  • Have passion for life!
  • Give freely to others.
  • Have fun every day.
  • Go for it!
  • ‘Trump cards’ don’t work when dealing with ‘professionals.’

READ MORE WEISSCRAX

Comments

  1. Vickie Craig says:

    What a wonderful story about the amazing, always smiling, one and only, Christine! Reading this made my day.

    Thank you,

    Vickie Craig M4L member

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