Cancer survivor completes her first road race with YMCA in Nahant 5k.
“I needed to grieve the person I was before and understand it as a loss,” said Sharon Mendes during a recent interview with the YMCA. “I am a different person now, and I need to do things differently and understand every moment is a gift and a blessing.”
At 62, Sharon Mendes is not waiting to enjoy her life any longer. As a survivor of stage two breast cancer, Sharon is a new person after her harrowing experience with chemo and cancer treatments and chose to change her lifestyle and infuse fun and joy in everything she does.
“No one is ever going to care more about your health than you,” said Sharon. “I needed to change my life. Cancer took a toll on me, I gained weight, and I did not feel well. I could barely recognize myself. So, I made a decision. I had come to this point, but I was not going to let this go any further. I could wallow in it, or I could move forward, and I chose to move forward.”
Sharon sought out support and joined a community of people who had similar goals. With the help of a certified trainer and coach, Marc Roach, Sharon took up the challenge of running her first 5k race at the YMCA of Metro North Stride Along the Tide 5k in Nahant.
Not only was this Sharon’s first road race, she also saw it as an opportunity to travel somewhere she had never been. A Bridgewater resident, Sharon packed up her daughters Naomi and NinaMarie, and her granddaughter NyKera, and headed for one of the North Shore’s most picturesque towns.
“Nahant is gorgeous,” said Sharon. “The trees were stunning and the ocean was glistening. The race was really well organized, and the staff and volunteers were extremely encouraging and welcoming. It was a perfect first race.”
This year, Sharon will try another road race, maybe closer to home. She will be back for Stride Along the Tide next year, though.
“You know, I thought about the experience of being in this 5k, and it’s a great metaphor for the road back to reclaiming your health,” said Sharon. “In the beginning, everyone is so excited, and they’re packed at the starting line cheering you on. As the race got longer, the crowd started to thin out – but there were still people along the way directing you to stay on course. Later on, the onlookers get fewer. Just when I thought I was alone on the journey, I saw a child holding out some water to encourage me to keep going. I stopped for a minute, and looked around at how far I had come. On a beautiful day, the sun glistening, and this young person spurring me on, I knew I could finish. And, when you get closer to the end, people are back cheering, and you cross the finish line. What an amazing feeling.”
“Whatever you do to take care of yourself, have fun doing it. Find the joy; the joy you once had as a child in jumping rope, playing ball, or riding your bike. The joy is the secret sauce and it makes being active easy,” said Sharon. “To be honest, it doesn’t matter what you do—just have fun and enjoy the gift of life.”