Lara Brown was standing outside of gate one at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto when she heard the words “breast cancer” from the other end of the phone. She was 37 years old.
Lara, an active, healthy and recently divorced mother of two, sold executive suites at Scotiabank Area – which meant a lot of hosting while the Toronto Raptors made their way to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019. On top of that, she had just finished kickstarting a new beginning with back-to-back marathons in Paris and Rome.
Lara said she was “beyond exhausted” after returning home. Jetlag and burnout seemed obvious answers, but she knew deep down that something wasn’t right. In the shower, she discovered a pea-sized lump in her breast, which led to a mammogram, an ultrasound and then a biopsy where she asked for a referral to The Princess Margaret. “I had two friends who had been treated there, I knew it was the best,” Lara said.
Lara began each appointment by asking the following two questions, “Can I Run?” and “Can I have a glass of wine?
Her oncologist, Dr. Bedard, wasn’t opposed to the running and said to make sure it was always a good wine. However, her radiologist advised walking instead, mainly due to the low energy levels that accompany chemo treatments. You can’t tell a runner to walk, Lara said, and in that moment, she made a decision to work just as hard as her treatment team.
Lara was going to become an Ironman
During chemo, she did five spin classes a week and when she wasn’t spinning, she ran…sometimes to appointments. She experienced little to no side effects from treatments and under the careful watch of her oncology team she kicked the butt of a drug known to do the opposite.
"I refused to ask, 'why me' because it was me, Lara said. “I knew there were two paths this diagnosis could take; this was my story and I was going to tell it my way."
21 days of radiation couldn’t stop her either. “Radiation left my skin raw, so I’d wear extra support to make sure nothing bled when I ran,” Lara said. Vacation days turned into training days and as she pushed through the lingering side effects and prepped for her final procedure, she asked “When can I swim, bike and run?”