'Hope is your pilot light' - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

'Hope is your pilot light'

Laura Narolski won't let cancer keep her from Ironman

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Posted: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 12:17 am, Tue Jun 18, 2013.

She's the cancer survivor who won't quit running. And swimming. And biking.

Little more than two years ago, 45-year-old Laura Narolski was diagnosed with breast cancer. "I continued to run all the way through my treatments," she said. "The miles definitely got shorter and the pace a lot slower, but the biggest thing of all was I was still doing it. I ran the Race for the Cure four days after my fourth chemo and it felt like my own personal marathon - those three miles felt like they were 26.

"But I wasn't going to let cancer tell me what I could or couldn't do. So I asked my doctor if it would be OK if I kept running because running was my emotional health. My doctor encouraged me to do it because he said I knew myself better than anyone else."

Sunday's race will be Narolski's first Ironman. Pretty impressive for a woman who recently underwent two surgeries, six rounds of chemotherapy and daily radiation. She said she's both excited and scared at the thought of actually competing in it.

"I feel I've done the training and I've been well coached. I know that that's what I need to keep my trust. But I also know I've got to make my cut-offs in order to continue and it's the bike that makes me the most nervous - I sure don't want the meat hook."

Before signing up for Ironman 2013, Narolski had been a volunteer at previous races, a fan and a devoted cheerleader for other participants. For years she had considered entering, but had always resisted the urge. Believing she didn't have the "guts" to do it, she often wondered what it took to do it.

Narolski said she has been especially grateful for her caring family - both her parents and her daughter and son. With their support, she completed her first half-marathon only four months after the termination of cancer treatments, despite the fact she felt as though her body was at "rock bottom."

"Chemo damage is a hard process to bounce back from," she said. "After I'd finished my half, I put my name in a raffle to win a membership with Coeur d'Alene Tri Team and I won. In 2012, I sat with the members during the Ironman and just so badly thought I want to do this - this is really for me.

"And then the director of the Tri Club offered an amazing opportunity. Her goal was to help anybody at any age cross any finish line they'd been trying to accomplish. You had to apply, so I put my name in and my reasons for wanting to cross an ironman finish line. They gave me a coach - Shawn Burke - which is priceless."

Starting September of 2012, the amount of time Narolski has spent preparing for Ironman is impressive. She has been training twice a day - both before and after her work as a sales rep and her weekends have been taken up with six to eight hours of daily workouts.

"I believe it was my illness that showed me a strength I didn't know I had," she said. "In the end, that's what's given me the guts to do Ironman.

"I'll always have the fear of my cancer coming back. One of the things I used to ask my coach was whether the pain I was feeling was normal - like did everyone else feel this way or did I have a little something else going on in me?

"Every cancer story is unique. My message is twofold: never give up doing the things you love because cancer came into your life and hang on to hope with all your might because hope is your pilot light."

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