A passion for fitness fueled the strength for Erin Danielle, a single mother and bodybuilder from Langley, to tackle her cancer.
Terry Fox helped make her feel like a hero for doing so.
Danielle, diagnosed two years ago, will be the keynote speaker at the 38th annual Terry Fox Run at Spirit Square in Pitt Meadows on Sept. 16.
“The Terry Fox program for schools is absolutely incredible,” she said.
Four years ago, she started competing in bodybuilding. While she was preparing for her third show in 2016, Danielle found out she had Stage 3 breast cancer.
She had to tell her son, now 10 and who had learned about Terry Fox through the run at his school. It taught him to understand cancer, for him and his mother to not view her diagnosis as a death sentence.
“My son said, ‘Oh, like Terry Fox? Because of the program and what they teach and how they portray Terry Fox as a hero, he looked at it as a heroic thing. That’s why the Terry Fox Run is so dear to my heart,” Danielle said.
After 16 rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, she is once again cancer-free.
Danielle has been an athlete her entire life, whether it’s running or bodybuilding. During treatment, Danielle continued to train every day, but said it was difficult to watch herself lose strength and muscle after all the work she had put in.
It was just as difficult staying strong for her son.
“I believe my mindset is the reason I conquered cancer the way I did. Just waking up every day being positive and grateful, even though it’s not always the easiest thing to do.”
Working out and sticking to a gym routine was a form of therapy for Danielle.
“My body was so strong to start with, so not only that, but being able to go to my safe place — my gym. Even though I was bald and I had gained weight and lost strength, every time I went to the gym, I could forget about what I was going through for a minute.”
But the most significant change to her body, though, was going through a double mastectomy.
“It was traumatic. There’s so much information out there about chemo, I felt like I was so prepared for every side effect. Whereas with the mastectomy, everyone is so different, so there’s no list of things to expect. You don’t know what you’re going to look like or feel like. The unknown made the mastectomy very, very hard.”
Post-surgery, Danielle continues to compete at bodybuilding shows. This past July, she competed at an international bodybuilding show, but now plans to take a season off. Still, she can’t imagine giving up fitness because it’s one of the things she loves most in life.
Danielle said the Terry Fox Run gives people have hope, and offers a better understanding of cancer.
“It’s so cool that I could tell my son I have cancer, and he looks at me like a hero. If he didn’t have the knowledge of what cancer was, he would of been devastated.”
Ali Wakeling, Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Terry Fox Run organizer, said the Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge run is looking for new faces to volunteer.
“We really need some help. So many people are great and come out every year. We would sure like to see people get involved and help bring some fresh ideas.”
Wakeling has volunteered with the Terry Fox Run since 2000 and has chaired the committee for a few years. In 2013, Wakeling lost her husband Sandy to cancer.
Sandy Wakeling was a faithful organizer of the Terry Fox run, a community volunteer and the recipient of the 2013 Pitt Meadows Citizen of the Year.
Last year, around $20,000 was raised at the run.
Routes range from one kilometre to 10 and are accessible for runners, walkers, cyclists, roller blades, strollers and dogs on leash. The 5-km and 10-km routes cross from Pitt Meadows into Maple Ridge.
Wakeling said the Terry Fox Run will take place rain or shine. Registration begins at 8 a.m. The runs start at 10 a.m.