Breast cancer survivor runs through it all

MILWAUKEE — Amy Siewert will run non-stop for three hours on a chilly spring Saturday. Siewert was 34 years old when she heard the three words that began her journey: “you have cancer.”

Siewert says she wasn’t living the healthiest lifestyle at the time, but breast cancer did not run in her family. “I never once believed I was going to let it take control of me,” Siewert said.

A lumpectomy and chemotherapy beat the cancer, and Siewert used the new lease on life to get fit. With a little help and a lot of encouragement, Siewert discovered triathlons, and learned she was pretty good at them.

By 2005, Siewert was fit, fierce and cancer free.

Then came her mammogram last May, where she was again diagnosed – this time, with two types of cancer. “The first thing I said to (my doctor) when he told me I had cancer was not ‘am I going to live,’ but ‘can I do this half-marathon I signed up for in July?'” Siewert said.

Doctors were understandably doubtful. The treatment this time around was much more intense. Chemo, radiation and a double mastectomy in May, followed by more surgery in June made a July half-marathon seem ridiculously optimistic. “He calculated out and said ‘you can’t do it,’ and that was before the surgery, and I said ‘we’ll see about that,'” Siewert said.

Despite her doctor’s objections, Siewert crammed in as much training as she could handle, but says she couldn’t handle much. “The first time, I ran 50 feet and it was awful. My chest hurt too much and so I stopped and I was walking another 50 feet, and then I’d run and I did that for a mile and felt defeated and felt ‘oh my gosh, I’m never gonna run again.’ The second day, I was able to run a mile, and the third day, I ran five miles,” Siewert said.

A month after breast surgery and days after barely running 50 feet, Siewert was running a half-marathon – Summerfest’s inaugural Rock and Sole over the Hoan Bridge in sweltering July heat. “I had no idea how fast I was running and it didn’t matter to me. Just the fact that I was in it was amazing in itself. It was so incredible that God let me do that,” Siewert said.

More chemo followed and while it took Siewert’s hair, her support group of runners made her feel like a queen by September’s Komen run.

Siewert is now cancer free, but not treatment free. Every three weeks she must undergo a hercepton treatment. “Going through cancer treatments, everyone thinks of you as the cancer patient, but when I can go out and swim in the lake or get on my bike, then I’m just feeling like Amy, and that sense of normalcy is so very important,” Siewert said.

Siewert has a new goal on the calendar — May 27th’s Madison Marathon. It’s her celebration run. It’s one year to the day she was released from the hospital. It also marks her son, Jake’s graduation from UW-Madison. They will run along with Jake’s girlfriend, together.

“It keeps me sane and healthy, and it’s my stress reliever. You take that away from me and I’m not all Amy anymore,” Siewert said.

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