Watching Rose Wharepapa on an exercycle preparing for a triathlon, it's difficult to believe it's only been a few years since she was battling breast cancer.
Six years ago the 49-year-old discovered she had extensive cellular cancer in her right breast.
After learning there was a 50 per cent chance of it spreading to the left breast, Ms Wharepapa opted to have both removed.
"I thought there was no way I was going through this again, so I told the doctors they better take the other one," she says.
But a major road to recovery was full of difficulties after "heinous surgeries" that took their toll.
A major challenge was staying away from the body-building that is her passion.
"I didn't lift a weight for three years. It wasn't an option to do weights, not for my recovery. I had to be strong not to do it but it would've set me back."
Instead of pumping iron, Ms Wharepapa did cardio-based exercises to stay fit and keep cancer at bay.
Exercise reduces the risk of developing breast cancer by 15 to 20 per cent.
It has been three years since her last surgery but her job as a personal trainer at a New Lynn gym has put her in contact with many women who have also experienced the disease.
"Until I got it myself I never realised how common it is."
Now her goal is to motivate breast cancer survivors to get back on their bikes.
She has signed up for the Bissell Women's triathlon in Pt Chevalier and is encouraging others to do the same.
"It's a good stepping stone to take what you are doing in the gym and set yourself a goal, and a mini-triathlon is very achievable," she says.
The triathlon also presents an opportunity for Ms Wharepapa to fundraise for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation.
"If I can motivate and raise some funds as well then that's a good thing."
The series begins February 10 with an event in Narrow Neck, before travelling around the country.
The final event is in Pt Chevalier on April 14.
Ms Wharepapa will be rallying a team to train for the events and says she faces her own challenge.
She admits the 300m swim is a bit daunting.
"I'm 50 this year, so if I can do it anyone can.
"There is no limit to what you can do if you put your mind to it."
Go to nzbcf.fundraising. org.nz/rose-wharepapa to contribute to fundraising efforts for the Breast Cancer Foundation.
Go to tri.co.nz for more about the Bissell's Women's triathlons.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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