Running toward the rest of her life.
Cancer knows no boundaries, attacking people and disrupting lives at will. But the human spirit also knows no boundaries. Kit would like to introduce you to Lindsey Hein. She faced the unknown with incredible, inspiring strength and a passion to make a difference for others.
Please take a moment to recognize National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, and all the families that need continued love, support and hope in the fight against cancer.
Fear is not an emotion one would associate with a woman who runs marathons. Fear plagued marathoner and triathlete Lindsey Hein for years, due to the unknown status of a gene test.
Lindsey’s grandmother survived breast cancer at 48. When she battled and survived ovarian cancer in her 60s, her doctors recommended that she be tested for the possible culprit—the BRCA gene mutation. She tested positive.
If one parent has the gene mutation, there is a 50 percent chance it will be passed on. Lindsey’s mother and aunt both tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation in 2010.
“My sisters and I knew once my mom was positive that we needed to get checked,” Lindsey said. “Both of my sisters were negative, and I just kept putting it off. I knew I had it. I am so like my mom in every single way. It was so hard for me to make that call.”
It took three weeks to get the test results. When the doctor’s office called with her positive result, Lindsey was prepared for the bad news. The BRCA 2 gene mutation puts Lindsey at an 84 percent lifetime risk of getting breast cancer and a 27 percent lifetime risk of getting ovarian cancer. As she gets older, the risks increase. There is no way of predicting when either may occur.
Staring down her fears
The plan for a preventive treatment was overwhelming—mammogram, MRI, ultrasound and blood work every six months.
“My immediate thought was that I’m 29. I don’t want to have panic attacks and be full of anxiety every six months waiting for these results to come back for the next however many years. I told my doctors—I’m not waiting,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey had watched her mom and aunt decrease their risk by having double mastectomies and hysterectomies, but these kinds of life-interrupting options weren’t part of her plan. Lindsey’s son Marshall had recently turned 1, and she and husband Glenn wanted another baby. Nevertheless, she put the wheels in motion to schedule her first surgeries—a double prophylactic mastectomy followed by reconstruction.
But first, she faced another unknown. Lindsey had to pass a series of tests to ensure a clean bill of health before surgeries could take place. Two days before she was to race her first Half Ironman (Ironman 70.3 Muncie), sitting in the athletes’ pre-race meeting, the doctor’s call came. She was cleared.
At the start line on race day, Lindsey stood in the water next to a woman in her age group who was a three-time breast cancer survivor. She was overcome with gratefulness.
“I raced with more passion and excitement than I ever had,” she said. “I felt so fortunate, like a train was coming at me head on, and I just figured out how to stop it. I felt so powerful.”
In October 2013, Lindsey had her first surgery. Afterward, she took off six weeks from training, and then ramped up her running as much as possible prior to her second surgery, which took place in January 2014. Recovery was slower than she expected, and her body was further challenged by a pulled hamstring and plantar fasciitis, but in April 2014, she raced the Boston Marathon.
Taking her BRCA 2 story to a national audience
When Lindsey saw a Facebook post from Women’s Running magazine asking readers to submit their stories for a chance to be a cover model, a little voice in her head told her to go for it.
“I read it to Glenn and told him I thought I had a chance. I had a big year,” she said. “He told me that if I was going to do it, I’d have to own it. I had no clue people would get into it like they did. The Indianapolis community just embraced this story.”
Lindsey submitted the story about “finding her strong” during that first open water swim at her Ironman, just days after making the decision to schedule surgery. Up against women with amazing stories all across the United States, the magazine’s readers picked Lindsey as the winner.
In July, she flew out to San Diego for a photo shoot to be the cover girl for the September issue of Women’s Running. A little fun fact—she’s 13 weeks pregnant on the cover.
“I wanted to share my story,” she said. “We all go through tough times and have our own outlets for dealing with them. Whether it’s painting or singing or creating or whatever you do, make sure you incorporate it into your life. Running got me through two miscarriages, my BRCA 2 ordeal, and any other time I have fear or anxiety. I certainly don’t know what mental state I’d be in without it!
“It’s a message—face your fears, stare them down, and do something. Don’t just sit around and be scared.”BY LINDAHL WIEGAND | PHOTOS BY CHRIS WHONSETLER