Sindy Hooper, 50, is battling pancreatic cancer. Having already had half of her pancreas, half of her stomach and her gallbladder removed, her chance of living more than five years is just 10 per cent.
"I thought, how is this possible? I'm in the best shape of my life…It was just a huge blow," Hooper said of first learning about her diagnosis.
However, the diagnosis isn't stopping the Ottawa mother of two from training for her second Ironman triathlon.
"It was a reminder for me that life can be short," she told Metro News. "This became such a big dream for me."
"It's just inspiring, just seeing the desire to be out there," Hooper's friend Sharon Kozicki told CBC News.
Last year, she completed the intimidating race — an Ironman consists a 4-kilometre swim, 180-kilometre bike ride and a full 42.2-kilometre marathon — in 11 hours and 38 minutes.
"My goal now is to train for Ironman Canada, having as much fun as I can, while raising awareness about pancreatic cancer, and raising money to support pancreatic cancer research. I’d very much like to complete Ironman Canada within the 17 hour time limit and live up to the Ironman Motto 'Anything is Possible,' Hooper wrote on her fundraising page.
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When Hooper competes in the race in Whistler, B.C., next weekend, she'll likely be the first to do so while undergoing chemotherapy.
She has three more races lined up after the Ironman.
"People may wonder why continuing to be a triathlete and finishing an Ironman is so important to me while facing pancreatic cancer. One, it gets me through the dark overwhelming days, training not only keeps my body strong but my heart and soul strong as it temporarily frees me from the fears of the unknown. Second, although triathlon is an individual sport it is made up of a very supportive, loving group of people who genuinely care and encourage each other. I want to use my training to help spread awareness of pancreatic cancer," she wrote.
She hopes her determination inspires others, too.
"I think we're all capable of more than we even believe in ourselves," she told CBC News.