Sharon Ingle

Sharon Ingle
Sharon Ingle is an inspiring amateur triathlete who has competed on behalf of Canada since 1993. She was also a participant in the 2009 Weekend To End Breast Cancer.
In June 2008, Sharon felt good while competing in the World Championships, but three months later, something changed. “In September, I was racing in the U.S. and felt some tightness in my chest,” Sharon recalled. “I was doing some self massage, as I usually do after a race, and noticed that there was a noticeable lump on my pec muscle. I might have simply thought I pushed myself too hard on weights, but that lump didn’t stand out before that.”
Doctors discovered a 5cm lump. “When I went for the biopsy, the doctor said, ‘I guess you’ve been told you have a highly suspicious lump, which in my opinion, is cancer.’ That was pretty shocking! Having no history of any related cancers in my family and living a healthy lifestyle, I couldn’t believe that the lump could possibly be cancer. When the results came back, it was.”
Sharon faced the cancer diagnosis head-on. “I just decided that it wasn’t going to beat me and no matter what they did to me, I was going to keep going.” And like the competitor she is, that was how she faced this newest challenge. “I started my chemotherapy immediately and I had pretty aggressive chemo. I got eight rounds of chemo. You feel sick, but my motto was, ‘It doesn’t matter how unwell I feel, I’m getting up, I’m going out and I’m doing my exercise because I need to – it’s going to make me feel better.’”
Sharon’s doctors felt that she should cut back on the duration and intensity of her work-outs, and as it turned out, the timing coincided with her off-season, so she agreed. “I swim for the University of Toronto Masters Swim Club and I explained the situation to my swimming coach, who created a schedule that worked for me.”
Although the pace of work-outs was reduced, the competitive intensity was not. “I didn’t think I was going to compete, but after six rounds of chemotherapy, I swam all of my events (every freestyle event plus a couple of individual medleys) at the Provincial Championship in Ottawa. You can imagine how tired I was! I was thrilled to win three medals – one silver and two bronze! I felt really, really good. It made me feel like I was getting above the cancer and still able to be me. My nurse wore my medals around the chemotherapy ward to inspire the other patients.”
Sharon’s times at the Provincials qualified her for the Canadian National Swim Championship. “It was right after eight rounds of chemo and my surgery in May (2009). I asked Dr. McCready from The Princess Margaret if I could swim the Nationals, and he said, ‘I’m not going to stop you, but you had better win the gold medal!’ I laughed and said, ‘I’m pretty tired, but I’ll see what I can do!’ And you know what? When they wheeled me into surgery, I was on the operating table with a gold medal!”
The surgery went well and Sharon believed she was cancer-free, but when the results came back from pathology, they found that I still had cancer. They had taken out 18 lymph nodes, and out of those, six were still positive for cancer. They wanted me to start radiation. I went through five weeks, everyday, of that and continued swimming in the lake. Four days after my last treatment, I raced a triathlon. I called it my ‘back to life’ race, and I was shocked to learn that I won the silver medal.”
Stunned, Sharon seized the opportunity. “The announcer made a big deal of the fact that I was just four days from my last treatment. I told them I was doing The Weekend To End Breast Cancer and I got some donations.” But that wasn’t Sharon’s only fundraising endeavour. “My husband is a stained-glass artist and he designed what is called ‘Freedom From Breast Cancer.’ It’s a beautiful pink butterfly sitting on the breast cancer ribbon. People hang them in their windows. It was initially just a gift for me but people saw it and said, ‘I’d like to get one of those.’ We started selling them at craft shows with proceeds to breast cancer, and when I decided to do The Walk (Weekend To End Breast Cancer), I decided it was a good way to raise money, so I sold the butterflies. We tell the story of why they were created and that helps me get more money for the cause.” 
Always eager to help others and ever the competitor, Sharon had a busy weekend on September 12 and 13. “I was a one-day Walker (in The Weekend To End Breast Cancer) because I had made a commitment to do a cycling fundraiser on the Sunday. After walking my 30K on Saturday, I rode 50K on Sunday.”
As a lawyer and triathlete, Sharon Ingle is no stranger to challenges, but she faced cancer with the same determination she employs in other areas of her life. “There are a lot of emotions and reactions you go through but I look at it as another hill I have to climb, and I’m going to get to the top and I’m going to get over,” she stated. “I refuse to believe that this is the end of my life. I just decided that yes, I am going to make myself feel as good as I can while I’m doing it, and in the meantime, if I can help somebody else or inspire somebody else, let me do that.”

Reviewed: October 2013