Reinisch, Team Chemosabee riding for cancer research at Skinny Tire Festival
Nancy Reinisch is determined to complete the 47-mile climb on her bike into Arches National Park this time.
The 55-year-old Glenwood Springs woman is one of hundreds of people riding in the 11th annual Skinny Tire Festival through Monday in Moab to raise money for cancer research.
Participants may choose what foundation receives their donations.
“I’m basically going back to finish some business,” Reinisch said. “Two years ago, I heard about it and went. I decided to go even though I was weak. I did the easy ride and had to sag (ride in a support vehicle) to the top of Arches. I want to bike to the top. My goal is to make the top of the Arches without sagging.”
She is riding with a group of six, who call themselves ‘Chemosabee’ after her book and have raised $1,500 for the event. More than $1 million has been raised for this year’s event.
Reinisch, an avid triathlete, couldn’t participate two years ago because her body was still
recovering from 16 rounds of chemotherapy treatment and five surgeries.
Reinisch, who would schedule family vacations around triathlons, will never forget the day she was diagnosed with breast cancer – April 26, 2006.
“It was really hard,” Reinisch said. “I was the last person you would think to get cancer. I was physically fit, ate well and was moderate when it came to alcohol. Everybody looked at me as example of good health. It scared everybody I know. It could strike anybody at any time no matter how fit you are.”
She learned her cancer was a hereditary gene she inherited from her mother, who is an ovarian cancer survivor.
“My saving grace was I was healthy and fit going into it to survive the rigors of treatment,” Reinisch said. “It’s helped me look at being strong through it. That’s my message now. There are certain things we don’t have control over. We don’t have control over what we get, but we do have control over our day-to-day life, what we eat and getting exercise.”
After Reinisch overcame the initial shock of the diagnosis, she began to fight using the same principles she uses in triathlons.
“First, you set a goal and meet benchmarks along the way,” she said. “If you do a century ride, you need to do 25 miles before you do 50. It’s one step at a time. My goal was to finish everything (doctors) threw at me.
“The other thing, I learned to deal with injuries from triathlons. You sit on the bench and do your time. If you rehab and are patient, you’ll be back out playing the game. I look at cancer like another injury. I knew if I had patience, I’d be back in this game.
“The third thing is use your team; my medical providers, my friends, my family and my tri team.
To get through triathlons, you need training buddies. I used my team for support. Without my team, I wouldn’t be talking to you today.
“The other one for me is keeping it light. I think of myself as a triathlete. I do this for fun. There is enough stress in life. It was the same with cancer — kept it light.”
It wasn’t always easy.
One particular day, Reinisch was struggling with going to the doctor’s office for another round of chemotherapy.
“I was whining about going in for my fourth round of chemo when my husband grabbed some boxing gloves and said, ‘You’re going to fight through it,’ “ she said. “We even took pictures with me and my shaved head wearing boxing gloves.”
The avid runner was reduced to walking, something she never thought would satisfy her.
“You have to moderate and reduce your expectations,” she said. “I knew I wouldn’t run, bike and swim. I committed to walking as much as I could. If I could walk one mile a day, two miles a day, I would keep some kind of mental and physical fitness. We live a mile and a half from the hospital and my friends would walk me to treatment.
“I never wanted to join the ranks of the walkers, but I learned to embrace it. I knew I would be too fatigued to run.”
Reinisch would gradually increase the distance, then started jogging. Eventually, she did another thing she never thought she’d do — compete in a triathlon as part of a team.
“One of the highlights for me, I planned to do the Boulder Peak Triathlon,” she said. “My white blood cell count was low, so I recruited two cancer survivors, one for three years and one for six years. One swam, one biked and the three of us walked and jogged the course. We crossed the finish line. It was a first for me to share as a relay team.
“It was incredible. Here we were three cancer survivors, dressed up in pink and we’re all crying.
It was powerful. To celebrate their survivorship as well was far more rewarding than a medal around your neck.”
The cancer is now in remission, but Reinisch won’t soon forget it.
She’s written a book entitled ‘Chemosabee.’ It was published three months ago and it is available to purchase at most Barnes & Noble stores or can be ordered online at http://www.chemosabee.com.
“I wanted to show how important it is to stay active,” Reinisch said. “If you are diagnosed with cancer, you can get through the rigors of treatment.”