Local women climbers hope to inspire fitness for breast cancer prevention
Just over a month ago, 68-year-old Lois Fletcher was too timid to walk down a steep embankment near the resort at Squaw Creek with her fellow members of the Mount Fuji 2000 Truckee-Tahoe Climbing Team.
“Mother, come on, you can do it,” her daughter Janet Brady chided. “You’re going to have to walk down much steeper terrain in August.”
Just about a month ago, Fletcher, a breast cancer survivor, completed her first 10K race. And today she hikes steep trails with her grandchildren while carrying 20-pound weights in her backpack.
She said she is not scared to climb Japan’s 12,388-foot Mt. Fuji with The Breast Cancer Fund’s Climb Against the Odds 2000 expedition next month. As the local team – which includes Fletcher, her daughter Janet, Laurie Martin and Windy Smith – prepares physically for the challenge, they are also working to promote cancer prevention and awareness in the Truckee-Tahoe community.
Training for the climb has included a rigorous weight training, hiking and running schedule, which is being coordinated by trainer Sandy Badillo of Half Moon Bay. Badillo is also a member of the Climb Against the Odds team, which is comprised of 46 Americans in total.
“I was timid about heights,” said Fletcher, who now works with a personal trainer donated by the Incline Village Recreation Center. “It’s awesome and overwhelming, but you get over it.”
Fletcher said she hadn’t hiked for more than 30 years, back when she was a Girl Scout leader. Now she tries to work out five days a week.
“I feel great. I’ve lost some weight,” she said. “I must be getting stronger or else I wouldn’t be lifting so many weights.”
As cancer research shows, physical fitness is an important component in prevention and the Truckee-Tahoe Mt. Fuji team hope their expedition will help inspire local men and women to build regular fitness into their lives.
“As a 40-year-old mother and former competitive track and field athlete, I have learned how challenging it becomes to fit fitness into our already packed family schedule,” Brady said.
To prepare for Mt. Fuji, Brady and her husband Mark and their two young boys, Maclane and Calvin, have been training together.
“Maclane and Calvin have developed a new appreciation for physical fitness. We have been going on hikes, and they have learned to breathe hard going up the steep parts of the trail,” she said.
Brady is the director of health promotions for Tahoe Forest Hospital, and collecting cancer research and statistics and promoting prevention is part of her job.
A recent study Brady cited was conducted by Dr. Leslie Bernstein at the University of California, and involved 1,090 women. Out of these women, ages 36-40, half had been newly diagnosed with breast cancer. The study found that moderate and regular exercise four hours a week reduced the risk of breast cancer by more than 50 percent.
Brady also said that in the June 15 issue of the journal “Cancer,” Dr. Nagi B. Kumar and H. Lee Moffitt from the Cancer Center and Research Institute at the University of Southern Florida found women who gain weight throughout adulthood and whose body fat is mostly in the upper body have increased risks of developing breast cancer and dying.
“Statistics like these are the pure motivational factors that keep me exercising, and that I also hope motivates others to get up and get active,” Brady said. “It is interesting that the human body has such a positive response from even moderate activity. It is also interesting to hear from so many breast cancer survivors that exercise was the saving grace of their treatment and ongoing healing process.”
Martin, who completed her radiation treatment in March, said integrating movement into her life has been an important part of her own healing process.
“It’s my meditation time,” she said.
She said that in the Truckee-Tahoe community, there are many resources and recreational outlets for people to build health and fitness into their daily lives.
“Fitness is one of the first things that slide when you’re under stress and working a lot,” she said.
Smith, who is also program coordinator for TFH Health Promotions, said that when building exercise into your life, it is important to make it fun and social, so that it is meeting many needs and not just one.
“I feel so good right now because I am training and exercising more,” Smith said. “Overall, it has improved my health and wellness. It’s made me take on things I haven’t done in awhile. And my friends have become a part of this and are training with me.”
The women will depart for their journey with family members, friends and other supporters in early August.
For information on fitness, health and wellness resources, call the Tahoe Forest Hospital’s Community Wellness Center at 582-3483.
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