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Fitness and friendship help beat cancer

Dawn Gleeson and family at Wildcats

Breast cancer survivor and fit mum-of-two Dawn Gleeson again skipped breakfast in bed on Mother's Day to join her family, friends and supportive community in running the 2018 Mother's Day Classic.

Four weeks before the Mother's Day Classic in 2017, Dawn Gleeson discovered in a routine check of her breast reconstruction that she would need treatment for breast cancer again, six years after beating it the first time. Dawn, mother-of-two and wife of Wildcats’ head coach Trevor Gleeson, was in the best shape of her life, having just completed an Olympic-distance triathlon and completely unaware anything was wrong.

“I didn’t feel anything unusual like I did the first time with the little lump, I didn’t feel different physically or mentally either,” Dawn explains. “So, my message for women is to be really in touch with your body and your breasts because you can be super, ultra-fit and you can still have breast cancer.”

The Mother's Day Classic raises funds for breast cancer research and Dawn is involved on the event's committee and Trevor an ambassador. Despite having just come out of hospital after the removal of the cancer, Dawn set up “Dawn’s Dream Team” and ran the four-kilometre event before doubling up and walking the same distance with her team.

“We ended up having over 100 people join the team and won WA’s biggest team which was really inspiring for me to know I had all of that support behind me,” Dawn recalled. “It’s an incredible morning, you see people starting their journey with breast cancer or 20 or 30-year survivors of it, people wearing tributes on their back and you don’t even have to be affected by breast cancer to go down and support a great event.”

Not only does the Mother's Day Classic provide a wonderful way to raise funds for breast cancer research, it is also a reminder of the role fitness plays in staying healthy while on a cancer journey. It was the combination of fitness and community that buoyed Dawn when treatment was difficult, knowing exercise was one way she could control beating cancer.

“I’ve always been into fitness, but since having cancer, I’ve realised how important it is to my happiness because it makes me feel better and that makes me a better wife, mum, employee and really a better person,” Dawn said. “I stayed as physically fit as possible and worked out every day bar one or two when I really didn’t feel well because it made me feel better and like I had some control in winning over cancer.”

During her treatment, Dawn’s friends Mel and James suggested she should sign up for the Busselton Half Ironman in May 2018. What started as a bit of a joke became a really important part of Dawn’s journey and she recently completed this feat.

“After doing an Olympic distance triathlon, it was important to me to get back to that level of fitness and not let cancer take that away from me,” Dawn said. “So somewhere along the line, my friends convinced me a half ironman would be a really good goal to have so when I finished chemotherapy in September, and then radiotherapy in December, I started training for Busso in January. It was sort of my way of saying ‘take that cancer’!”

While an endurance triathlon might seem extreme, Dawn is passionate about women finding some form of exercise that works for them during cancer treatment.

“Medical evidence has found it is so important mentally and physically to exercise during chemotherapy,” Dawn said. “It puts you in control when you feel like you’re in a completely out of control situation.”

You can still donate towards the Mother's Day Classic fundraising total by visiting http://www.mothersdayclassic.com.au.

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