Cancer survivor/swimmer inspires others

Cancer survivor/swimmer inspires others

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by Erica Heartquist

Bio | Email | Follow: @EricaHeartquist

kgw.com

Posted on August 3, 2012 at 7:45 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 6 at 6:36 PM

She may not be competing in the Olympics, but a Vancouver woman has three gold medals of her own. And she won them just months after losing a breast to cancer.

Arlene Delmage, 50, has been a swimmer since she was a kid and really got back into it after a softball injury 14 years ago. Last July, she had a set back.

"Never for in a million years did I think it would come back positive ever because I don't fall into any categories that you would check off, including genetics or anything," said Arlene Delmage.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have one of her breasts removed.

"I eat right, I'm healthy, I work out, all of the above and she told me it was positive three times over, twice in the breasts and once in the lymph nodes and I didn't actually believe her," said Delmage.

Instead of throwing in the towel she took off her wig, put on her swim-cap and got into the pool. "Even when I was on Chemo, I would just come flop in the pool and float and make it happen because it just made me feel better," she said.

That's when fellow swimmers suggested she go to the U.S. Masters Swimming Summer National Championship in Omaha, Nebraska. It's the same pool where the Olympic trials were held just days earlier.

"The Olympic trial pool where they had just had the Olympic trails with Michael Phelps and all of those people," said Delmage.

Within ten weeks of her surgery, she figured if nothing else, it would be good to get in the pool, and visit with friends. "I just thought, 'I'll just sign up, I'll put the cut times down and I'll just go see my friends and it'll be fun," she said "I swam the 100-meter butterfly and I don't know, I just won at nationals, it was kind of amazing. I was really surprised."

She won three gold medals in the 100 butterfly, 200 butterfly and 200 free relay. She won second in the 200 Intermediate Medley (IM) relay, 3rd in the 200 and 400 IM, and 5th in the 200 and 400 freestyle.

As a token of her appreciation she gave one of them to her surgeon.

"Her courage is very amazing to me and I think, to our entire staff, here," said her surgeon, Dr. Allen Gabriel with PeaceHealth Medical Group. "Breast cancer should not stop you, she went for it and she won, she won gold," he said.

When Delmage sixty-plus teammates first found out she had breast cancer, they rallied behind her. Especially her coach of six years, Dennis Baker.

"It just shows her true heart. I've been around swimming for my whole life, for 45 years and I've seen a lot of things and I've never ever seen anything like that. It was awe inspiring," he said. Delmage, a mother of three has beat cancer because, she said, she stayed positive and kept moving. "If you're having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, think about that, and if you're having trouble getting motivated - think about that and what she did," added Baker.

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