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Theresa Ellsworth's Cancer Journey

Theresa Ellsworth's Cancer Journey

Theresa Ellsworth's story in overcoming cancer and joining the Blue Cross Winter Warm Up program.

By Theresa Ellsworth

I joined Blue Cross’s Winter Warm Up program five years ago after having smoked for many years. I saw a post on Facebook and talked my best friend into joining the Delhi group with me. Our coaches, Kate and Tim, were very welcoming and encouraging.

I started by walking and gradually worked up to some running. The first two years, I did multiple 5k races and won a couple of medals for 1st and 2nd place. I took the lessons the WWU program had taught me and did as best I could to utilize them. In 2020, I was selected as a Blue Cross Winter Warm Up Health Ambassador - then COVID hit. We didn’t get to do our end of the year 5k. I received the traveling “Golden Shoe” award outside of Playmakers while we wore our masks.

We did a virtual WWU Zoom the following year. My husband Jim and I put in lots of miles walking, hiking, and sometimes running during the pandemic. We were happy when we finally returned to in-person WWU, which we have done the last two years.

I had a lung scan in January 2023, followed by a biopsy in February. The beginning of March, I found out I had lung cancer. The doctors initially thought it was stage one but discovered when operating that it was closer to stage two. I am blessed that I got the lung scan early because usually once you start showing symptoms, it is a much harder battle to win.

I chose to have pulmonary resection. I finished WWU and told our coaches and friends that I was going to be having surgery to remove the cancer. I ran the Izzo 5k in April and a week later went to have a third of my right lung removed. My husband, Jim, told me I was in the best shape ever to get through it since I had quit smoking and was walking and running thanks to having joined WWU four years prior.

Surgery was rough and the recovery rougher. I came home with a third of my right lung gone and was on oxygen. I was depressed just sitting around. I had to learn to breathe differently than I was used to. Once I could be off oxygen for short amounts of time, I pushed myself to walk the perimeter of our backyard once an hour. After a couple of weeks, as I was getting stronger, Jim and I would go for short walks to the corner of our street and back. It took me six weeks of pushing myself to finally get off supplemental oxygen and do longer walks. I also had a goal to go to the Taylor Swift concert in June with my daughters and three of my grandchildren (we had the tickets long before I knew about the cancer). I did it!

Long story short, I am back at Winter Warm Up for the fifth year. I am cancer free. I am doing intervals of running and walking. My doctors are amazed that I am still doing 5ks. I missed two months of 5k’s (May and June) yet I have come full circle in about 10 months time. A lot of that has to do with the WWU program. My husband and I credit it with saving my life by getting me in shape that allowed me to come back from the cancer, surgery, and recovery process.

Jim and I have so many great friends through WWU and I had a lot of support from the friends I made there. I can’t say enough good about the program, the coaches, and the friends we have made there. I owe them all a big debt of gratitude.

Theresa Ellsworth's Cancer Journey
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