Karen Newman tackles breast cancer the same way she approaches triathlons: with a smile on her face, courage in her heart and determination in her soul. Newman, a 50-year-old resident of Old Greenwich, proves a positive attitude overcomes all.
"Cancer entered our family, and we've turned it into love,'' says Newman, who got her competitive season off to a flying start by winning her age group in the Race for DARE 5K earlier this month in Easton. "I get to go and speak to cancer patients. I'm able to do things I've never been able to do. Your greatest challenges are your greatest lessons. I am truly blessed."
Newman is planning to participate in the U.S. Age Group National Championships in August and the World Championships on Sept. 10 in Beijing. She is a five-time All-American triathlete and has competed four times in world competitions. She is also a registered dietitian, runs a successful private practice and holds a master's degree in clinical nutrition.
Her world changed March 18, 2008, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It spread to her lymph nodes. Doctors told her she had no shot at competing in the World Triathlon Championships later that year, but she was having none of it. "I went out and finished after my fourth round of chemotherapy,'' she said. "It was one of the best things ever."
Newman never looked back, even after having four surgeries. She competed in the U.S. Age Groups Championships in September and was selected for this year's U.S. team to compete in the world championships. "When I was told that I had been chosen for Team USA, I cried,'' Newman said. "I'm so thankful. Every day is an incredible blessing."
Newman plans to race triathlons in the region to prepare for her big events. Her husband, Peter, and sons Stetson, 18; Chase, 16; and Trent, 12, provide support and encouragement.
Newman figures cancer was a signal for her to slow down her life, if not her triathlons. She has not only fought it, she has embraced it. Before the 2008 World Triathlon Championships, she wrote this on a blog for the International Triathlon Union: "This year's Worlds will be about racing with God in my heart. I will be racing for all those battling cancer, for the United States, for my friends and family, and especially for my boys. I will treasure each moment ... the parade of nations, the dinners with other athletes, the beauty surrounding us, the wonderful friends I have made over the years. ... This year, instead of focusing on winning a medal or placing in the top ten, I will remember what a gift it is to be at the World Championships and what a gift each and every day is to all of us. I believe that if we never walked or crawled through the valleys, the mountaintops would never be as spectacular as they are when we finally reach the top."
Newman has appeared on the "Today" show and spoken openly about her ordeal. "It is my duty, and my great joy, to help anyone any possible way that I can,'' Newman said in the "Today" interview.
Triathlons are still important to Newman. Nothing, however, is as important to her as showing cancer patients and people everywhere how to approach challenges with faith, tenacity and a positive outlook.
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