Jennifer Hyde is a 48-year-old Ironman and marathon runner who starts her first chemotherapy treatment on Friday. Unflappable in spirit, a volunteer at the races before working in our sport and racing nearly every other weekend, Hyde has a positivity to her that makes her a likely candidate for beating this cancer, this horrible thing. She says paddling, skiing and cross-fit—like running, cycling and swimming—are equally important to her and that she’ll be drawing on all those experiences to move forward. On Earth Day, when so many of us are needing a ray of light, we caught up with Hyde, who worked with Sportstats and now the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre, to get a glimpse into the human spirit: that indefatigable special something that all of us—but especially Jennifer—need to tap into right now.
iRun: How goes it?
Jennifer: Just like standing at the start line I am so nervous/scared about what lays ahead but just like I would finish every run, I visualize the finish line.
iRun: Where are you now?
Jennifer: I just walked into the door from my oncology appointment. We’ll see how it goes.
iRun: Tell us what they’re treating.
Jennifer: Invasive duct breast cancer. It’s in the ducts that go through your breast where there’s the production of milk, the cancer is in the tubes themselves and what happens is, if it stays within the tubes it’s contained, when it goes outside the tubes and disintegrates the walls, it’s classified as invasive. At this point, the tumor is estimated at 5 centimetres.
iRun: Man, I’m so sorry. It’s incredible how you speak of it so matter of fact.
Jennifer: I still have the ability to go through everything and discuss it with people. I want to make sure I understand the treatment and I tried some naturopath solutions, but it continued to grow. It’s really been just a lot of testing for which treatment to put me on with chemo and which drugs.
iRun: You’re relaying the grim information with a steadfast delivery. How do you feel?
Jennifer: The emotional rollercoaster you go on can be intense if you allow it to be intense. I’m allowing my emotion to come out, but no, ‘woah is me,’ no, ‘Why me?’ I want to stay optimistic and make a game plan for how I can get back to myself again.
iRun: When did you first fall in love with our sport?
Jennifer: I started really running in grade 3 of all things, it turned out to be my sport. It was short stuff, nothing too drastic. I moved to 1500-metres when I was 12 and it was just fun for me, it wasn’t intense. It was a good release and I continued through high school, but when I left school, I thought my running was done. I wasn’t part of the running community.
iRun: So how’d you get hooked as an adult?
Jennifer: Introduced by a friend at the cottage. She was training for a marathon and invited me to come for a run and I kept her company for 20K. I was like, ‘Wow.’ I had been running 5 and 10K, but nothing that long. She said I should try a half marathon. That’s when I met Marc Roy with Sportstats. I did a few events that Sportstats was timing and met Isabelle [Fradette, Sportstats CFO] and I started showing up a lot of races, helping out at first, cleaning up, and it became a full-time job. I like providing support for runners.
iRun: When did you run your first race?
Jennifer: September 1999, the Scotiabank half marathon.
iRun: What did you like about racing?
Jennifer: Something empowering: starting off with a big group so elated, just a big group of runners going down and taking over Lakeshore Boulevard. It just felt electric and charged, this really wonderful, great experience and to meet people along the way! You start running with someone you don’t know at all, you have no clue, but you feel like you know them after the race: you all have this common goal. It was just such a great feeling, really wonderful and I wanted more as soon as it was done. When’s the next one I can do?
iRun: How does your racer’s mentality help?
Jennifer: My thought process, you know: What’s next? That’s done. OK, what next? With training, you create your own plans and actions and you have to stay calm and focused. I found I also do meditation now, which helps. I wish I knew that prior, during my race days.
iRun: What else from your race days—which I’m sure will return—provide comfort?
Jennifer: Just being able to handle the rollercoaster. You have these short bursts of racing and are zonked at the end and then it’s: what do you do to recover? How do you eat, how do you sleep? What’s the best thing I can do to perform at my best? I’ve learned a lot about recovery.
iRun: Love that.
Jennifer: It’s taking those mindsets from racing and transferring it to what I’m going through now and it will help me continue with this. OK, it’s only been a month now, but it’s going to take a year. Well, that’s no different from training for an Ironman or a marathon. You make it to the first starting point, then the next, then the next. . .
iRun: Your lifestyle prepared you, as well as anyone can be, for this.
Jennifer: We keep ourselves healthy so when and if we get hit by something this, you can frame it as catastrophic or else like something I’ve trained for my whole life. This is how I’m going to handle it now.
iRun: What do you mean?
Jennifer: Every event is the unknown. You have to adapt and change and you have a goal and a plan so as long as you’re true to that, you can deal with what’s coming at you. This mindset that I can do this and I know I’m not alone.
iRun: What’s the near-term prognosis?
Jennifer: I want to be doing stuff by August but I’m looking at a full mastectomy and radiation. After, I can stay active. My intention is to be as active as I can be, within reason. I don’t want to stress my body but by this time next year, I’ll be back into the groove of things.
iRun: What was the hospital like for your visit?
Jennifer: My concern is that I’m sick and bringing it into the hospital. When you think not of yourself but others first, you have to be very cautious and careful, but the place was barren. You see the wonderful nurses and everything is disinfected and answer some questions and have your temperature taken, and everybody is really wonderful.
iRun: Jennifer, we wish you the best of everything. Stay strong.
Jennifer: I will. There’s nothing else to do, right?