I will be racing in my 3rd Iron Girl triathlon and raising money to support ovarian cancer research and advocacy on behalf of my friend, Kylie Triola, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer in July 2016.
The first time I ran Iron Girl it was at the end of an amazing and fun filled weekend that included a quick overnight visit with Kylie as she travelled to Buffalo to photograph a wedding before heading back to Guatemala where she was a chaplain and counselor at a school.
Always the spiritual anchor, before we parted ways Kylie took a moment to pray for my race and for her trip back. I clearly remember her prayer for my race of "God be in her every stroke, with her on every hill she climbs and every step she takes, and may you continue to regin in our lives forever." We then hugged goodbye and she headed towards Buffalo and I headed towards Syracuse to race in my first Iron Girl. When we said goodbye I didn't know that would be the last time I would see her.
In May of 2016 I got a text from her that she was in a hosipital in Guatemala and just had emergency surgery to remove some cysts. A few days later another text revealed that they were tumors, and they were malignant, and things did not look good. She was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer and sadly lost her fight just 7 weeks later.
Ovarian cancer is a cruel and silent disease that robs too many women so quickly. The organization of Hope for Heather, which Iron Girl is supporting, is dedicated to supporting research to find a cure and to support advocacy and draw awareness to the disease. Ovarian cancer, due to its symptoms, is often diagnosed when it's advanced and in late stages. The amount of research and education needed is great.
When I first chose to race in my first Iron Girl two years ago it was because the race was pink, there was a fancy medal and I liked the name. I didn't really give a thought to the charity it was supporting and had no idea that within the year I would be one of the millions of lives impacted by ovarian cancer.
Last year I raced Iron Girl just a month after Kylie's funeral with the words of her prayer written on my arm as a reminder of what this race was really about. This race, for me, will always be intertwined with her memory. That is why this year I wanted to race as a member of the Hope for Heather team to help raise funds for research and advocacy in Kylie's memory.