Pam Benchley Beat Cancer with Lessons from the Bike
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and beloved Stages Cycling Master Educator Pam Benchley shares her personal story on beating cancer, using lessons she's learned from years of cycling and triathlon.
Breast cancer chose the wrong woman. If there's anything we know about Pam Benchley, it's her strength, grit, determination and love for life. Pam beat stage 4 breast cancer this year and is now here to share her story. Pam lives in New York and has been a Stages Cycling Master Educator since the very beginning, with upwards of 300 instructor trainings under her belt. When she's not traveling around the US to train instructors, she's dedicated to training for triathlons, and has completed countless half-Iron distance and two full Ironman races.
"Have a PLAN. Have a ton of PATIENCE. Be CONSISTENT. And most importantly, be ready for the plan to take a nose dive and know you’ll have to start again. And again."
During a training session last year Pam noticed a spot on her breast that easily could have been chaffing from many miles of training. She decided to get it checked out by her doctor, a timely move that ultimately could have saved her life. After multiple mammograms and biopsies, Pam received the news she had stage 4 breast cancer and that it was in her liver.
Pam had surgeries and treatment at the Cleveland Clinic, and was back to biking and running just two weeks after her last surgery. Then, if surgeries and negotiating with insurance companies weren't enough, Pam's radiation sessions began right as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the US. Just as she would do in an endurance triathlon, Pam adapted her plan to the new challenge and continued on fighting with her usual spirit. Her energy stems from her love of fitness, competition, and her fitness community, which is spread across the country at this point in her career. Teaching virtual cycling classes mid-treatment with Stages to raise money for the Coronavirus Relief Fund? Sure thing - she was there, despite skin burn equivalent to fire ants. As Pam says in her story, just like riding a bicycle, if you don't keep looking forward, you'll crash. Look the direction you want to go.
“What has been the greatest lesson from Ironman training that has helped me the most? Perhaps it is the fact there is something oddly freeing when giving yourself over to something so big you can’t possibly sweat the small stuff anymore.”
Cancer does not define who Pam is, but rather is a part of her story. If anything, it has added fuel to her drive to get back on the road - literally on two wheels, as well as on her fitness journey.
"Don’t waste your time asking “why me?” It’s exactly that: wasted time. Cleveland Clinic again and again assured me, BECAUSE of me - who I am, the exercise, the good shape I was in and my attitude - these would all play the most important part of fighting this thing."
"There is something called survivor’s guilt, but I what I think about daily is survivor’s responsibility. To all those who have gone before me, that have had it much harder than I do, and to those who didn’t make it – we OWE them the honor of telling our stories. Of NOT feeling sorry for ourselves. And for never giving up. EVER."
Ride or workout with Pam on the StagesStudio Now app with SPARK, a virtual event taking place through October 30th.
Watch an interview with Pam on the news here.