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Cancer fails to slow cyclist down

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2014

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Louise Curtis is not taking her terminal cancer diagnosis lying down.

The Miramar woman, in between bouts of chemotherapy, radiation and physiotherapy, is training for four major cycling events in what she calls the "Year On My Bike".

Curtis, 43, was told just over a year ago that she had a brain lesion.

It was discovered when she had an MRI scan for an unrelated condition called complex regional pain syndrome, a nervous system disorder which causes pain and swelling in one of her legs.

When the scan came back to show she had a lesion on her brain, without any symptoms to tip her off that something was wrong, it was "a real big shock".

In July last year, she had an awake craniotomy to remove what surgeons could of the tumour, but it was more aggressive than expected.

"I've been told I might have five years left, if that. I'd like to know that I can help, and do something in that time."

Curtis can't walk, jump or run properly, or even sit or stand for long periods - but she can cycle.

She is doing two physiotherapy sessions a week for the leg, five spin classes, and will soon begin training with the GearShifters cycling squad.

All this so she can tackle the 101km Marlborough Grape Ride in April, two indoor cycling events, and finish the year with two-day, 200km Ride To Conquer Cancer in Auckland in November.

Although she is raising money for the Cancer Society and the Malaghan Institute, she is also hoping to send a message to others with terminal illness and chronic conditions: "Make the most of what time you have left on this planet, and live like there's no tomorrow."

Curtis is big on using fitness to overcome life's barriers - she still teaches group fitness classes at the Wellington City Council pools and works for Sport Wellington supporting those on green prescriptions.

She was back teaching just a month after her surgery, and says while she has "never been one to lie down", the exercise is proving a useful tool for her illness.

"It helps me mentally to overcome what I'm having to deal with physically. It's kind of a distraction."

Curtis says although some days it can be painful, she still wants to let people who have terminal illness or chronic pain conditions know they can battle through it.

"A lot of it is mental and psychological. They need to say, I can try this; even if you can't do it, at least try.

"And just make every day like it's your last."

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- The Dominion Post

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