The Iron lady who brought cancer to its knees

Mumbai: When Mayura Shivalkar crossed the finish line in 70.3 (miles) Ironman Colombo in February this year, there wasn’t a winners’ medal waiting for her at the podium - but her family, doctors and people aware of her resilient background, already knew what Mayura had achieved - she became India’s only cancer surviving triathlete to complete the half ironman - a thought that seemed impossible at first.

Come this Sunday, the 46-year-old strong lady from Belagavi will be seen in action once again in the IDBI Mumbai Half Marathon while carrying a simple message with her presence, “Accept the reality with grace and enjoy the time in your hands”.

Mayura had completed over 30 half marathons and six full marathons before she decided to up the level and go for the ironman contest.

“I got myself registered for my first ironman race in January 2018, I just had a month to prepare and everything was new - from learning road bike, sea swim and practicing solo.

“Two weeks before the event, I started getting high fever and walking even 10 metres felt difficult at one stage. I began to feel a lump in my left breast and when doctors suggested getting the memogram done, I got some idea what I might be up against.

As hard as it was getting, one thing was clear - I only had two choices: Skip the contest and survive or grab the bull by its horns and fight, live. I wanted to participate in the competition come what may.”

After completing the event in Colombo, Mayura flew back to India and saw her worst nightmares come true - reports read that she was diagnosed with breast cancer and what followed were months of painful treatments and surgeries.

“In March 2018, I had to undergo two surgeries in space of 15 days, then eight strong chemotherapies and 30 radiations. I finished my treatment by the end of October.”

Marathons are the best platforms for people who seek inspiration and for the ones who seek to inspire. But Mayura’s story is not only about overcoming physical and mental hurdles. It’s about overcoming both along with the emotional ones.

The mother of a 19-year-old boy, who dealt with problems of weight gain, depression and the trauma of going through cancer treatments all while keeping her focus on the mission and managing day-to-day life.

“I had lost all my hair, suffered from low bone density and serious pain in the hand after the nodes were removed from the armpit. I gained 10 kgs and sunk in depression, but I am a firm believer in the idea of having the right attitude to the problem. Add the support of your family, friends and good medical policy - you are the winner.” 

Mayura went through another surgery (hysterectomy) in May 2019 as hers was Metastasis form of breast cancer.

“Having been through the journey, I wish to spread awareness that a cancer conqueror can overcome any challenge after proper treatment. That's why I finished one of my last races with the quote - ‘Cancer didn’t bring me to my knees, it brought me to my feet’.

“Running made me more strong - mentally and physically. It taught me to face the odds with a smiling face. I feel all women above the age of 40 should run to avoid depression and menopause issues." Mayura concluded.

By Ali Asgar Nalwala

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