5/15/17

Athlete Spotlight: Laura Rellihan - Competing in the most important event of her life (PLEASE READ)



Each week we feature an athlete on our Trimarni blog in order to connect the multisport community, while using this spotlight as a way to motivate and inspire others to pursue athletic goals. This week is no different as Laura is an inspiring individual who has always lead an active and healthy lifestyle. As my very first friend after moving to Jacksonville, FL in 2008, Laura and I quickly connected. Funny enough, we were both wearing fruit/vegetable-themed shirts when we met at the pool - obviously we were destined to be close friends! We shared a similar love for swimming, healthy eating (she is also a Registered Dietitian) and pursuing our own nutrition businesses. Also, our dogs were best buds.

Knowing that Laura has battled Lupus Nephritis for the last 20 years, I was always inspired by her strength and determination and for her no-excuse attitude, no matter what came her way.

Recently, Laura was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic, non-smoker lung cancer that has spread to her spine, liver, right hip and brain. This news has been devastating to everyone who knows Laura but you would never guess that Laura is going through this battle with her body as she is so strong willed, positive, selfless and caring.

Laura recently began radiation on Thursday (5/4) for the 4 small lesions found on her brain. Since her cancer is EGFR mutated driven, she will be taking a targeted drug called Tarceva (instead of traditional chemo) at the completion of radiation. While this spotlight is only a snapshot of Laura's inspiring life, please consider helping out my dear friend Laura (and her family) with a donation (link on the bottom of this page). 



Name: Laura Rellihan

Age: 35

City/State: Jacksonville, FL

Primary sport: Swimming

How many years in the sport: 25+ years

What Trimarni services have you used: Triathlon training plan, long-time friend

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Describe your athletic background and how you discovered your current sport?

I wanted to learn a sport that none of my brothers or sisters did....so I picked swimming!

What keeps you training and racing in your current sport? 

I love the feel of the water and the "silence" that it provides from the stresses of the world. Swimming drowns out and is the white noise that relaxes me the most.


What do you do for work?

Registered dietitian, business owner (Back To Balance), recent author (The Lupus Diet Plan) and mom/wife.


How does your work life affect training and how do you balance work and training?

It is so important for me to continue swimming as a way to stay in shape. I spent many years training for triathlons but after adopting our two sons over the past 6 years, I now focus mostly on swimming and any activity to stay in good health. I want to practice what I preach and exercise is very important as it gives me strength and it helps me stay in balance. It's a priority in my life, similar to work, personal life and my health.


Any tips/tricks as to how to balance work and training?

Make it part of your routine. Add it to your calendar, pick the time that works best for your schedule and make it a habit.


Do you have kids?
Noah is 16 months and Liam is 6 years old.



How does having kids affect your training? How do you balance it all?
I make sure to join a gym where child care is available. I usually go to the gym when they are in school so that it doesn't affect my family life. Sure, I have days when something comes up (a kid is sick) so then I become flexible and instead, just go for a walk.


What tips and tricks do you have for other athletes who struggle to balance training with family?

Incorporate your kids into your exercise routine. Do you YouTube videos with them and engage them in exercise. Invest in a babysitter during the times that you want to do your longer workouts and consider investing into tools that will help you complete your workouts, such as a jogging stroller.


How do you balance your training with your partner? Any tips or tricks for keeping your partner happy while you train to reach your personal goals?

Communication! Communicate your goals with loved ones, from the beginning - especially if you have kids. Whenever you can, find an activity that you both like and make it part of your training plan.


Do you have a recent story that you'd like to share?
I was recently training for a 7-mile swim and noticed a big change in my breathing capacity and strength. I also started to get significant hip pain.I went to see an orthopedic doctor who gave me an x-ray and ruled out osteoarthritis since I am only 35 (I have been on prednisone since I was 15 years old due to Lupus). It was about 2 months ago that I went from swimming 3000 yards to only 2 laps at a time because I was getting short of breath. I found this very odd that my energy level would decline that quickly. I laid off the swimming some but slowly noticed I couldn't walk or run without getting short of breath. My blood pressure also started to go up drastically which I have never had trouble with (thanks to my amazing diet) and this also caused me to have migraines. The doctors got my blood pressure under control but then the week before Easter, I went into have an echocardiogram which showed about 2.5 liters of fluid in my lung. I admitted myself to ER to get fluid drained and kept telling the doctors I'm just here for a "Pleural effusion so please just drain it so I can go home." Meanwhile they order an X-ray of my chest and CT of my chest and found that I had a mass in my left lung. As athletes, it's easy to ignore signs that something may be wrong with your body. Always pay attention to what's not normal and if you are concerned, see a doctor. 
 
What are your top tips for athletes, as it relates to staying happy, healthy and performing well?
Listen to your body and rest when you need to rest. Eat and hydrate well and surround yourself with close friends who support you.

How would you define athletic success as it relates to your personal journey?

I am proud of my past days as a triathlete! It was amazing to see how I could still perform with my body, even with all that I have been through with the lupus. I never thought I would one day finish a half ironman, especially when I spent most of my high school sick due to Lupus. I hope that I can say the same thing that when I beat lung cancer, I will be able to participate in more athletic events with my body!

What's your favorite post-race meal, drink or food?
Burger and sweet potatoes fries. YUM!
                                   

What are your goals for the next 5 years?

To beat lung cancer and enjoy every moment that I can in life! After finding out on April 28th that I have the type of lung cancer that is EGFR mutated driven, there are several targeted therapies out there for me. This is great because I won't have to do chemo and I will beat this cancer! There is a chance that I am eligible for a phase III clinical trial that is going on across the US and can be done right here in Duval county, in Jacksonville.
I've had a lot of people ask how I stay so positive and strong. I am weak at times, I cry at times, I am scared at times...and that's ok! Because when I fall short I can rely on Him to take it away. Every time I ask Him to carry my cross, He takes it away. He is my anxiety pill! You truly have to believe that He can take it away and He will! 

"Sadly, we forget that God has given us a backup plan, and so get into the habit of thinking we must rely on our own resources or on other people who may let us down when we need them. Today we stop and start trusting again. We remember that God has “co-signed” for us, and he has written his name on the contract with the blood of his Son."
 
Anything else? 

Keep fighting 💪🏻for whatever you are facing!
So much has changed since I was first diagnosed. When I went for my brain MRI, they found some small leasions (6-9mm) that were not seen on previous MRI in February so they realize how much faster my cancer cells are going and that is why I needed to start radiation on my brain as soon as possible. I will lose my hair from radiation but that's happened before and I can rock the boho scarves and cute hats. 

Patrick (my husband) and I want to continue to thank everyone for the prayers, child support, meals, reaching out to us and gifts. I think I made a few people cry tears of joy and relief from this generosity we have been shown.  It is hard for us to accept this kind of generosity at times and we often let pride get in our way. We have never had to worry too much about finances since we both worked but since I can't work now we sincerely appreciate it and nothing will go unnoticed. 

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Both Laura and Pat are hardworking business owners and Pat’s work as a specialist in live event production keeps him traveling 2-3 weeks out of every month. The main goal of the donations is to keep Pat by Laura’s side and with their boys as much possible over the next several months. This will help Laura through her treatments and will provide some financial relief from impending medical expenses. While Pat and Laura were hesitant to accept donations due to their selfless nature, raising funds for them will aid in their quality of life over the next several months.  Thank you in advance for your support!
Your generosity, prayers, and positivity are extremely appreciated! 

Donate here to help Laura and her family. 


Read more here about Laura's fight with cancer on her CaringBridge page.

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                                                 Love you Laura! Keep fighting hard!!


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