rev3triathlon half-full

Cancer Survivor Stories

Meg Shipman

Meg Shipman Survivor Roster Pic 200x300 Cancer Survivor Stories

In January 2010, I heard the words no one ever wants to hear from her doctor. I’d been diagnosed with a rare form of cervical cancer called adenocarcinoma.

I had no symptoms, no previous abnormal test results and no family history of cancer. By all accounts, I was a healthy and extremely active 32-year-old….surfer, kiteboarder, cycling instructor, scientist.

Now… I am a young adult cancer survivor.

My OB/GYN detected the abnormal cells on a regular check-up, which was then diagnosed further through biopsies. I was extremely lucky that I’d been diagnosed while the cancer was in its early stages. My team of oncologists at Johns Hopkins University was able to perform surgery to immediately remove the cancer.

The treatment and follow-ups didn’t end there. My health is closely monitored due to the aggressive nature of this type of disease. I’ve had some reoccurrence of abnormal cells in the past couple years, but I’ve been able to keep a positive outlook on the course of treatment and what lies ahead for me.

Two years ago, I decided that I wanted to get involved in an endurance event. Through my local running store, Charm City Run, I learned about Team Fight, a training team that raises money for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

I began training with the team, along with volunteering with the Cancer to 5k program, which is an amazing program that helps individuals with cancer train and run in a road race. I can’t begin to describe how wonderful the experience has been with the entire Ulman Cancer Fund organization. I feel so lucky to have connected with such amazing people and resources.  Over the past two years, I have not only been able to run my first races ever, but bring continued awareness, such as running in the coveted New York City Marathon, participating in many more triathlons, coaching the Baltimore Cancer to 5k program and even running across America with Rev3 Triathlon benefiting UCF.

Prior to joining Team Fight, I wasn’t able to talk easily about my cancer. Meeting other people like me has given me the strength to fight this disease and speak out and share my story. In addition, it has given me the strength to swim, bike and run like I never have before.

The support, coaching and friendships are truly amazing. Being a part of the Ulman Cancer Fund has helped me to face adversity with a smile.  It has given me the support I needed and allowed me to help spread awareness about young adults fighting cancer. It’s about living life half full… The way I have always lived my life, cancer or not.

Mike Compson

Mike Compson Survivor Roster Pic 230x300 Cancer Survivor Stories

Hello, my name is Mike Compson and I am a cancer survivor.  In January of 2008 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and presented with a number of different options to treat the cancer.  After being very scared and weighing all of my options I decided to have robotic assisted surgery to have my prostate removed in March.

Three months after a successful surgery I was doing yard work and hurt my back.  I ended up with a bulging disk and a herniated disk in my back.  After two months of physical therapy, my therapist told me I should continue stretching and working out to reduce the chances of future problems with my back.  He recommended swimming. I told him that I did not know how.  He said, “LEARN!”

As I was learning how to swim at my local gym I began seeing and talking to more and more people who were training for triathlons.  I thought these people were crazy!  Pretty soon some of these crazy people suggested that I give it a try.  My wife Robbie and I decided to sign up for the 2011 Celebration Triathlon in Columbia.  While training for that race some friends were telling me about the Half Full Triathlon and how it was such a fun race and such a worthy cause.  After reading about the Half Full I decided to sign up for Olympic distance race before I had even raced my first triathlon.

Racing as a survivor was a very emotional experience that kind of blind-sided me.  At times, I tend to take things for granted.  There were two other survivors running the Olympic version of the Half Full.  Although I do not remember their names I do remember the women I met that morning.  One of them had battled breast cancer and the other had battled brain cancer.  I was truly amazed by their stories, strength, and that they were about to do the 40 mile race.   We received a great send off for the swim from all of the other racers doing the Olympic race.

Although the weather last year was very cold, the race was a great experience.  I was amazed at all the volunteers who were out there in the cold with the racers and all of the people on the side of the road cheering us on.  I was also amazed at all of the support and encouragement from fellow racers along the way—they really helped me get through the race. Running through inspiration mile was just that, very inspiring, and it really helped me get through the worst part of the race, the run.

The Half Full was just an amazing experience for me last year.  The race supports such a worthy cause that helps so many individuals as they battle this insidious disease.  As I am writing this note, I got a call from back home that my uncle was just operated on for colon cancer.  He is but one of the many individuals that I have known or heard about that has been afflicted by this awful disease.  I consider myself blessed and extremely lucky.  I hope to be doing the Half Full—my little contribution to the cause—for many years to come.

Deanne Morris

Deanne Morris Survivor Roster Pic 300x225 Cancer Survivor Stories

I am doing this race for me! The week of the race will be 5 years since I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Soon after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer in Oct 2007, I signed up for my first triathlon that I completed in June 2008 (The Philadelphia Triathlon, Olympic distance). I also joined a local triathlon club where I met my now husband. We married less than a yea
r later in May 2009. Triathlon has become a meaningful part of my life!

I am happy to report that I have made a full recovery and am doing well. This race is a celebration for me of what I am physically able to do and what I have overcome. I am happy to be racing the Half Full that benefits the Ulman Cancer Fund, and I am very happy to have my husband cheering me on (by the way, we are leaving for Hawaii on Wednesday so I can cheer him on in Kona!).

Gotlin, Matthew

Matthew Gotlin 352x600 Cancer Survivor Stories

Tuesday, April 7, 2009 began just like any other day. I had a doctor’s appointment at 4:00pm, but nothing else unusual. The prior fall, I had experienced what I thought was a groin pull or a hernia. In fact, after two ultrasounds (30 days apart), the doctor decided that rest, and Motrin would be the answer. In fact, the pain did go away completely and I never thought about it again. I was back at the urologists office purely as a precaution, just to tie up the loose ends. Or so I thought.

I never suspected this day, April 7, would become one of the most important dates in my life. By 6:00pm I found my world had changed in so many ways that I could not possibly comprehend them all. The doctor had told me I had testicular cancer. He wanted me to have surgery by Friday. The survival rate is over 95% with testicular cancer. “SURVIVAL” The word didn’t even make sense to me. 35 year-old men are supposed to live for another 65 years (well that was my plan at least).

During the drive home I called my wife and knowing she was feeding the kids, I tried to play it cool. But I couldn’t hold it together and she knew something was wrong. Cancer is not something you can keep to yourself. Even for a 20-minute car ride. The support system, which suddenly sprang to life was life changing. The emails, the texts, the visits, the friends sitting with me in the hospital in my darkest hour—they were all with me.

The good news is that on Thursday April 9, I realized my cancer had not spread and I never looked back. Those two days of contemplating my own mortality were excruciating but the cancer was early, and thanks to a very dedicated and very smart doctor my treatment plan would be easy. The surgery would be followed by two rounds of Chemo.

I immediately turned my focus to supporting others with Cancer. LIVESTRONG was an obvious choice. The message and the mission hit home. I set a goal more than a year out to join the 2010 LIVESTRONG Challenge. I wanted to gather a team and raise money to support the cause. Last August, with more than 30 friends and family (from 7 months to 87 years old), our team rode, ran and walked in the Philly LIVESTRONG Challenge. We raised more than $44,000 for the cause.

During my recovery, I set completing a half Ironman distance triathlon as a goal, and accomplished that with the Half Full in 2011. This year I will compete as a part of a relay team.

Chang, Ellen

Ellen Chang 300x224 Cancer Survivor Stories

In 2007, I was diagnosed with a very early stage of uterine cancer and with surgery, I am fortunate to be cancer free.  My father died from lung cancer in 2009. It is a debilitating and painful disease, and it is difficult to watch as a family member suffers.  I do this race in the memory of both my parents who are in heaven.

 Trish, Erin

Erin Trish 300x265 Cancer Survivor Stories

Story: Erin Trish is a PhD student in Health Economics at Johns Hopkins University. She was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2009 and was treated at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She is happy to be celebrating her third cancer free year by participating with Team Fight in the Half-Full triathlon and Baltimore Half-Marathon.

Ison, Matthew

Matthew Ison 300x225 Cancer Survivor Stories

I am 24 years old and a cancer survivor.  I was diagnosed in March of 2004 with a carcinoid tumor in my appendix and had my last surgery/treatment in September of 2009.  It was a long sickness which manifested itself off and on, off and on primarily in the form of intestinal obstructions (which is not much fun when you’re in college and a triathlete).

I went to Baylor University where my love for short track mountain biking and running got me pushed into a triathlon by a buddy.  I loved it, and went after it.  I helped found the Baylor University Triathlon Club in 2008 and was the first president.  However, sickness kept getting in the way and my last surgery in the fall of ‘09 nearly put me out of the sport forever.  But I kept trying, went a little crazy in the head during my “survivorship” period, and developed into a better triathlete than I had ever been.

I qualified for the 2010 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clear Water, FL and didn’t do so well, but I did win the Toyota Cup Collegiate Championship a few weeks before that.  Other than that I’ve collected several AG wins over the years and I hope to re-qualify for my elite license at this race and compete professionally next year.

 Villanueva, Wirt

Wirt Villanueva 430x287 Cancer Survivor Stories

I am 34 years old, married, with three children. I was diagnosed with stage IIA Hodgkins Lymphoma on January 12, 2006 while my wife was 34 weeks pregnant with our twin girls. On February 14, 2006 my daughters Samantha and Cassandra were born. One week later I started chemotherapy for 6 months followed by 20 sessions of radiation.

My chemo and radiation days were not easy. I was hospitalized with complications during my radiation treatment.  I still worked full time as a Physical Therapist while I was undergoing treatment since my wife was on maternity leave. I was very fortunate to have strong physical, emotional and spiritual support from my family and friends. It wasn’t easy but I told myself that if I go through all the hardships of cancer I will do anything that will come my way. I had a positive outcome with all my treatments and early this year, my oncologist discharged me from his care. I am cancer free and I am a Survivor.

Being active started when I was motivated to have a healthy lifestyle. I started training for a marathon in the fall of 2010. I was able to finish my first 26.2 miles in Washington, D.C on March 2011 and everything else became history. I challenged myself in doing a triathlon last year. I was able to finish two sprint triathlons and one international distance. This year I was able to complete my first Ultra Marathon in Chicago and NJ marathon. I also did my first 70.3 distance in quassy Rev3 (that was a very hard course and I will be back next year). Also, I finished my first Ironman U.S. Championship this August 11, 2012 NY/NJ. I did Shoreman 70.3 with my wife and I will be doing 70.3 IM Poconos at the end of September and my last race for this season will be the REV3 HALF FULL Tri (which my fellow triathlete recommended to me knowing that I am a survivor and for such a great cause).

Training is not easy. I always try to balance work, family life, swim, bike and run. But I love the challenge, I like the pain that I feel when I train and how I can control it unlike the pain that I felt during my treatment days. This is about limits: reaching them, exploring them, exceeding what you thought your limits were, and coming to the conclusion that there aren’t any limits. I do what I love and I love what I do.

Kovach, Robin

Robin Kovach 150x143 Cancer Survivor Stories

I am a melanoma survivor of 12 years and a breast cancer survivor of 2 years. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, being in triathlon and having a support group of friends there really helped me. I am so lucky. This year I am racing in honor of my cousin who was just diagnosed with Leukemia and is going through chemo now.


Hensley, Jessica

Jessica Hensley 249x300 Cancer Survivor Stories

In May of 2010, two days before my oldest son’s fifth birthday, I received news that flipped my world upside down. I had been diagnosed with AML, a form of leukemia, and would need to be hospitalized as soon as possible to begin a series of three-month in-patient hospital stays for chemotherapy, followed by an autologous bone marrow transplant and then a year of outpatient chemotherapy. I was healthy (otherwise), incredibly active, ate well and felt normal. It was only by chance that I happened to get a blood test a few months earlier that was the only signal that something was wrong.

On June 1, 2010 I left behind my two sons, one just 22 months old, and began the scariest two years of my life. The day after this year’s Half-Full will be my 10-month post donor transplant anniversary. As of today, I am in complete remission and thriving. Failure was not and will never be an option. I am incredibly grateful to the Ulman Fund for being by my side throughout this entire process and understanding the challenges of young adults facing cancer. Racing in Half Full for the second time is my way of thanking the Ulman Fund and honoring all of us who fight to beat this terrible disease. I run not only for myself, and all of the people that have supported me, but for those who cannot be there to run next to me. We are all in this together!

Clements, Patty

Patty Clements Cancer Survivor Stories

I’m Patty Clements and I’m a survivor.  I didn’t realize that waiting a year for my first mammogram would be a “blessing”.  At 41 I had my first mammogram and the radiologist noticed calcifications.  And, I started my journey.  I’m a Mother to two sons.  At the time I worked full-time in a health club, a part-time a group fitness instructor and trained for triathlons.  I’m a six-year survivor.

I look back now and can’t believe how I managed it all.  I found an excellent breast surgeon who referred me to an excellent oncologist.  I had two lumpectomy surgeries within six weeks of my diagnosis and started chemo within a month of my second surgery.  All the while I continued working full-time and teaching my step and spin classes.  I think because I began this journey so healthy I was able to maintain my fitness schedule even though at a much less intense level.

My sons and family were there for me and the students in my classes were wonderful and supportive.  It is difficult to teach an advanced step class with chemo brain!!  I started running again after my four chemo treatments but while still on Taxil and during radiation.  Radiation ended in January and I ran my first half marathon as a survivor in May.  I have met other survivors and each has a unique story but we are all survivors.

Bilenki, Tony

I am a 17 year stage 4 sarcoma survivor. I had a sarcoma on my forearm that required surgical removal, radiation and surgical reconstruction. I was treated at 41. I will be 59 on my next birthday.

I have lost and seen six close friends in their 40’s and 50’s be treated for or lose battles to various cancers in the past 10 years. Not young but just the same close friends and family.

I race to show that it is possible to race as a survivor and in honor of: Wilbur “Bud” Baldwin, Dorothy Lappe, and John Patrick Doyle

Sundeen, Lisa

Lisa Sundeen 300x199 Cancer Survivor Stories

My name is Lisa Sundeen, and I am a cancer survivor. Since I was a little kid, I’ve always been running around and playing outside non-stop. So when I started slowing down in the pool and feeling sluggish on the lacrosse field during my senior year of high school, I knew something was wrong. After a series of checkups, scans, and biopsies, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Although I spent that summer undergoing chemotherapy treatment and radiation, I still managed to hop in the pool almost everyday and complete a race with my childhood teammates at our neighborhood pool.

Five years later, I’m cancer free and still swimming, biking, running, and generally loving life. I’m happy to be a part of this UCF event and I’m thankful for all of the lovely support I’ve received from my family and friends over the years.

Olympic REV
Half REV

Course Preview:



Centennial Park (Columbia, Maryland)


We believe HALF FULL is having hope and optimism in the face of adversity. Whether it is a triathlon or the fight against cancer, HALF FULL is having the determination and positive attitude to get to your finish line. Surrounded by friends, family and fellow athletes – we are all in this fight together. One Mile at a time, we will finish this race, but more importantly – WIN this cancer battle!

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