A woman who recently battled breast cancer is among runners who are preparing for the Surf City USA Marathon and Half Marathon this Sunday in Huntington Beach.
Lindy Ward, 51, is principal of Dunlap Elementary School in Yucaipa, and she lives in Redlands. Both towns are in San Bernardino County. She is planning to run the half marathon on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3.
In June 2009, she found a large lump protruding from her upper chest and she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, marathon officials said. Within two weeks, she had a mastectomy and lymph nodes removed. Over the next two years, Lindy had 16 rounds of chemotherapy and 32 daily radiation treatments.
"I feel very fortunate and blessed to be able to share my story," Lindy told Redlands-Loma Linda Patch in phone interview Wednesday. "If I can inspire just one more person to keep up hope. There is hope."
Lindy said she attended a funeral Tuesday Jan. 29 for a childhood friend who did not survive colon cancer.
"She was diagnosed about four to five months after I was, in 2009," Lindy said. "It was so sad. We grew up together in Grand Terrace. But it was also a reminder of how precious life is, and how important it is to embrace what we've been given. Health is truly a gift we should not waste."
Lindy said she has never considered herself an athlete. But after chemotherapy, and being unable to walk without pain, it felt like a blessing to be able to put on shoes and go running.
"It wasn't easy at first," Lindy said. "People don't understand how chemotherapy affected my whole body. Some people said 'You had breast cancer, how did that affect your feet?'
"But chemotherapy wrecked my whole body," she said. "All my cells and nerves, my fingernails and toenails fell off. It kills cancer but it kills the healthy cells too. Thank goodness it killed the cancer."
Lindy said she and her friend Barbara Caballero, a teacher at Park View Middle School in Yucaipa, started out running very slowly and worked their way up to half marathons.
"We ran together in the Run Through Redlands in April and it was awesome," Lindy said. "My radiation was at Redlands Community Hospital and I got to run by that hospital and leave it in the dust, put it behind me. It was surreal."
She said she still does not run that fast but she loves it. She said she'll be running this Sunday in Huntington Beach with her son, Robert Ward, 22, of La Verne. Robert is in grad school at Cal Poly Pomona.
"I always run in pink, for my breast cancer awareness," Lindy said. "There is hope. Ten years ago what I was diagnosed with was a death sentence. Triple negative breast cancer is extremely aggressive. The only way to combat it is with chemotherapy and maximum radiation. They told me aggressive cancer needs aggressive treatment. But I worked through it all."
Lindy said she wishes everyone could go through her experience - without the pain - so they could see and feel what she has.
"In April 2011, I was vice principal at Chapman Elementary, and one day the entire student body, the teachers, everyone dressed in pink for me," Lindy said. "I wish everyone could experience that, to be the recipient of so much compassion and humanity. It was incredible."
There are more than 150 people from Redlands registered to run in the Huntington Beach event, Jennifer Hernandez of the Surf City USA Marathon and Half Marathon said. The event is expected to draw 20,000 participants and an estimated 50,000 spectators.
The full Surf City Marathon serves as a qualifier for both the Olympic Trials and Boston Marathon, according to organizers.
For more information about the Surf City USA Marathon and Half Marathon visit www.runsurfcity.com.