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Team 4

Team 4 brings women of all ages, interests and backgrounds together to train for triathalons and battle cancer.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Harrmann

Training to race and fighting to live

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Lisa Drew beat cancer and trained for a triathalon while she was at it

By Anna Schroeder

It requires new levels of personal resolve. It makes her question how much emotional stress she can handle. It involves an extreme test of her physical ability. It elicits a need for unwavering support from her friends and family. It makes her re-evaluate the commitment she made to herself. And in the end, it forces her to pledge to change her lifestyle.

Lisa Drew expected these conditions when training for a marathon and triathlon. She never expected to experience them while simultaneously battling cancer. Whether attempting to bike, swim and run or preparing to undergo a mastectomy, the underlying feelings and thoughts are the same. The physical battle with the winding road, choppy lake and uneven terrain mirror the emotional battle a woman encounters after an abnormal pap smear, the discovery of strange lump in her breast or a recent diagnosis of cancer. Both require dedication and drive, and an unrelenting desire to come out on top — in one instance, finishing the race and in the other, making it into remission.

Drew, 43, and a friend began walking in 2002 after making the decision to lose weight by beginning a simple exercise program. Her initial goal was to lose 40 pounds, and after moving to jogging as their exercise of choice, the women decided they needed a new challenge. So they signed up for the Chicago Marathon in 2004. Unlike most other women training for a marathon, Lisa faced an even greater challenge—defeating breast cancer. “I was diagnosed in January of 2003, and I continued training throughout the diagnosis. I had a mastectomy on Tuesday and was on my stationary bike on Thursday. I did five miles that day,” she says.

Although it took her a while to get back into running, she kept up with what training she could throughout all of her surgeries that year. “I had three different surgeries in 2003," she says, "a mastectomy in January, reconstructive surgery in April and another reconstructive surgery in July."

“My personality is to see the glass as half full. I didn’t think ‘I’m sick and let’s curl up in a ball and not do anything.’ I look at both as a challenge to take on head first, and you feel so good when you get through it. That’s what I found with racing and the cancer diagnosis,” she continues.

After completing the marathon, triathlons were the next logical step for the women, who had both reached their weight loss goals. “We said, 'If we can do this, let’s try the next activity,' so we did the local Pewaukee Sprint Distance Triathlon."

She found strength in a support group of family and close friends, which helped her maintain a positive outlook regarding her battle with cancer. Even after her doctor detected something suspicious on her ovary and she had both of them removed, Drew continued to train for the 2005 Pewaukee Triathlon and remained positive about her situation. “It all made me more appreciative of things in life," she says. "I’m pretty high strung and always multitasking and I’ve calmed down a little and appreciate all the good things in life."

After hearing about a team for female triathletes from her yoga instructor, Drew decided to apply to Super Pear Team 4, named for one of its presenting partners, a female-owned marketing firm called Super Pear Strategies. Joining the team in 2006 gave Drew the chance to unite with other women in similar circumstances who were equally as passionate about achieving the same goals. For the first time this past year, thanks to the team, Wisconsin women were able to merge their love of running, biking and swimming with their determination to find a cure for cancer. Each woman has her own story and reason for being on the team, whether she herself or someone close to her has battled cancer. These women train and race while raising money to fund research for four cancers that affect women: breast, cervical, uterine and ovarian. Each woman commits to raising $2,000, which, along with all other contributions, goes to the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center for Breast Cancer and Gynecological Oncology Research.

Heather Haviland, a professional triathlete who lost her mother to cervical cancer and her father to liver cancer, founded the team in 2005 as a way to bring together women triathletes affected by cancer. On the team’s website, Haviland writes, “I have lost both of my parents in the past five years to cancer, and wanted to take action and race for a greater purpose this year.” So far, the team has raised $92,000 of their $200,000 goal for the Medical College.

While the team members are not able to get together in person often, they do share training tips and offer emotional support to one another through frequent emails. The women find encouragement through contact with other members and enjoy being among women who are focusing on the same cause.

“It was important because it’s other people all focusing on the same thing, as much as we didn’t all get together in a particular spot, just knowing that you were all focusing on the same cause … ultimately it’s a good cause to raise money for, and the more we can have a part of it, the better,” Drew says.

Team 4 also serves as a support group for these women who all happen to share the same inspirational dreams. It allows women who otherwise would not be in contact with one another the chance to share their stories and experiences, offer advice and encouragement and gain a few extra cheerleaders at their next race.

Kimberly Eisendrath, 34, who is also a Team 4 member, participated in her first sprint triathlon in Pewaukee in 2005. She became involved with the team because her mother fought cancer in 2004. “I did it in honor of both my mother and stepmom who were recent breast cancer survivors,” she says. “Participating in the triathlons takes training and dedication for amateurs such as myself. Once completed, they are one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Top that reward off with meeting a remarkable group of women, raising money for the top four women’s cancers and being advocates of awareness and prevention—it made for an inspiring season.”

Both Eisendrath and Drew reiterate the importance of having a strong support system around them when they were faced with the news of cancer. “Getting through her [my mother's] diagnosis was an amazing collaboration of support from family and friends,” Eisendrath says.

Drew agrees that the people around her, as well as her personal drive to overcome the disease, got her through the diagnosis and surgeries that followed. While there is no easy or universal way of dealing with cancer, Drew says it is important to remain calm and use the resources that are readily available. “I would say take a deep breath, listen to your doctor, write down your questions and talk to the people that are around you," she says. "Use the support system that you have. Take things one day at a time, and it’s not necessarily a death sentence, there are lots of treatments out there.”

Above a photograph of all the women on the team’s website, Haviland writes, “I can think of no better way of telling my mother, my sister, and my friend that I love them than by being a member of a triathlon team dedicated to helping rid cancers, especially those affecting women.”

The entire team is made up of women who have moving stories of dedication and perseverance, both when it comes to training and racing and overcoming cancer. Team 4 allows women who have been affected by cancer to take their love of athletics and put it toward a truly amazing cause. While raising money is important and necessary in this quest, both Drew and Eisendrath hope to see the team expand this coming year and explore additional ways to help in the fight against cancer. These include promoting health and wellness, increasing cancer awareness through education and community involvement and providing support to cancer survivors and those who have been affected by cancer. Eisendrath concludes, “It’s interesting how we can go through life taking advantage of so much and thinking that something like cancer will never happen to us. Then it does happen to you and it gives you a whole new perspective on life.”

To learn more about Super Pear Team 4 or make a contribution to the Medical College, please visit their website at

Team 4 Supporters

In addition to the athletes, Team 4 boasts a boisterous contigent of adoring supporters.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Harrmann

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(c) curb magazine 2006

Click here for cancer-related information and a map of the triathalon.