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Be Inspired – Emily Wong and how being active helped her cope with breast cancer

In 2017 I discovered a lump in my breast that turned out to be cancer. I underwent weeks of scans and biopsies and the inconclusive results between them was excruciating. I had a husband and two children under the age of 4 and no family history of breast cancer.

I had just started going to my local gym and was beginning to regain some fitness after neglecting exercise for many years, due to having to care for young children and, before that, being stuck in some very unhealthy workaholic habits and burnout jobs.

Seeing that I already had the gym pass, I turned to exercise as a way to deal with all the anger, fear and confusion I was feeling about my cancer.

After surgery, I lost considerable shoulder mobility but it came back gradually through stretching and yoga. I learned to Zumba, and then to lift, jump, run fast and pedal hard. All throughout my cancer treatment, I continued to exercise and I truly believe this helped to offset the fatigue associated with radiotherapy, as well as the side effects of the medication I continue to take. Fast forward a few years, and I have learned to handstand, do pullups and participate in triathlon (with Her Spirit!). My GP, my gym and my family and friends are all so supportive and encouraging, and everyone can see how much being active helps me physically and mentally.

Even scarier than death is not living life to the full.

My husband, kids and extended family are incredible. My marathon and triathlon training has required lots of commitment and sacrifice from them too! It means my husband, mother-in-law and sisters-in-law regularly step in to help care for my two young sons, and it means my sons accepting that “Mummy needs to train and will sometimes be away from them.”

My husband and even my mother-in-law goad me to “Just get out and do it!” when I am making excuses not to do that long training run in the wind and rain. And for the marathon and triathlon I completed last year, they were all there to watch and cheer me on.

Picturing that feeling of elation at the finish line and the proud faces of my two little boys really help to spur me on.

 In the last few years, most of my spare time has been spent on physical activity of varying intensities, whether it be yoga, running, swimming, gym classes or cycling. Training for events like marathons and triathlons take a fair amount of time. I love it, but I am considering a focus on shorter distance races so that I can make time for other things like reading, playing the piano and seeing friends.

Maintaining a balance…

I am self-employed as a professional landlord. The company I started with my husband Peter specialises in developing properties for residential lettings and property management. I have had a varied career over the past two decades. Previously, I have worked as a radio reporter in Canada, a fundraising and communications specialist in international development, an advocate for victims of domestic violence, and a housing coordinator for homeless families.

In all honesty, with young children, I wouldn’t be able to achieve that balance without my husband and extended family helping to look after the kids so that I can have time to train and participate in the sports I find so life-affirming. 

Self-doubt.

As I get older, I am better at speaking kindly to myself and not letting that voice of self-doubt and self-criticism dominate my thoughts. In addition to exercise, getting enough rest is so important and perhaps more easily overlooked when we talk about well-being and resilience.

Mind, body and soul.

I stick to quite a basic diet of simply cooked fish or chicken with rice, pasta and veggies on most days. I eat a lot of bananas and dried fruit for quick energy before training.

Running is my main sport, but I also love to use yoga to challenge and strengthen the body. Increasingly, I am interested in activities that work on balance, strength and flexibility together  – such as TRX suspension training, core strength yoga and pilates.

“I am enough.” It is all well and good to strive to be better, faster, stronger, smarter, perhaps more beautiful, but we need to question why we want to make these changes. I would like to start from a place of self-love and acceptance before trying to strive for one thing or another.

It’s wonderful to have found a community of like-minded women through Her Spirit. We are women who want to be supported in sport and to train with others, and we are also ready to help others to achieve their health and fitness goals.

If you enjoyed this blog you can check out another one here! You can also head to the #YESSHECAN Website for more information about who they are.