Amy Dodson: One Leg. One Lung. 100 Miles.

by

When I was a little girl, my father took me to my first race at the Phoenix YMCA track meet. I was so shy that I didn?t speak up when the girls were being organized into 100 yard dash heats. After all the girls ran, I was still standing there. My dad, legendary Tucson sportswriter Corky Simpson, told the person in charge I hadn?t run yet. There was only one solution. I ran in a boys? heat. I remember that race like it was yesterday. The gun went off, scared the hell out of me, and I took off like a shot out of a cannon. I opened my eyes, and the race was over. My dad was very excited and I was not sure why. Then I looked behind me. The boys were all still running! I had won my first race.

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A couple of years later my foot began to hurt and the doctors didn?t know why. It took years of tests and speculation before the doctors did exploratory surgery and found undifferentiated sarcoma — a soft tissue tumor — in the arch of my left foot. Doctors thought the best approach was to remove the tumor, and then ?watch and wait? to see if it returned. It did.

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The tumor was removed again when I was 16. Again, because it wasn?t aggressive, the doctors said to ?watch and wait?. It then returned a third time when I was about 19. I guess I knew it was different this third time. I was in such pain that the weight of a bed sheet was pure agony. I remember having to soak my foot in hot water before going to bed. It?s the only way I could get to sleep. The tumor was now deemed very aggressive and my life was in jeopardy. So the leg had to go.

Believe it or not, I actually felt relief when I learned I faced amputation. If I gave up the leg, I would give up the pain. And I had been in some form of pain from the cancer since I was around 9 years old. That?s a long time. But what was worse than amputation was the chemotherapy. I went through treatments every 3 weeks. Each treatment lasted for 72 hours. I would check into the hospital on Friday after classes, and hook up my Hickman catheter to the chemo drip until Sunday night. Not fun. Of course, I also lost all my blonde hair. I looked like a cue ball for about a year and a half. Every time a little bit of fuzz would appear, I?d have another treatment and it would be gone. I was in college at the time — the University of Arizona — land of the beautiful people. I was not one of the beautiful people. But I made it through.

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The chemo ended, my hair grew back, I graduated from the University, and I started my first teaching job. I thought my illness was behind me. But the cancer struck again during my first year as a teacher. This time it was in my left lung. For the first time, I was really scared. And I have to admit I was angry. I had had my leg amputated. I had gone through chemo. I didn?t complain. I had been given a 90% + chance of no recurrence. This wasn?t supposed to happen. But it did. I had the lower left lobe of my lung removed, and listened to a doctor tell me that maybe I?d be among the lucky 10% who survived. I didn?t want to think about that, so I hid my illness for over ten years. I told no one I was an amputee (long pants helped) and a cancer survivor.

It was just easier for me to avoid it?.Or so I thought. My ?secret? finally caught up with me and I had to go through post-traumatic stress syndrome a decade after my diagnosis because I hadn?t faced the biggest trauma of my life. What jolted me out of all this denial and secrecy? One word: Running. I began running local 5 and 10 kilometer races. Eventually, I worked my way up to 10-milers, half marathons, and marathons. 10 years after modern medicine saved my life?.Running literally saved it again. In 2003, I tried my hand at triathlon, becoming a member of the US Paratriathlon team from 2004-2009. During this time, I competed around the world representing Team USA, winning 2 national championships, along with 2 world championships. In addition to the Olympic distance triathlon, I?ve also completed 2 Ironman distance races with a best time of 13:23. In 2006, on a ?whim? (I get those a lot!), I ran my first ultra-marathon distance, a 50K race in Toronto, Canada. I surprised myself by winning my age group with a time of 4:58. This planted an idea – maybe I could run even farther. In 2009, I completed four 50-mile runs, with a female amputee worlds best time of 9:13. This qualified me for the Western States 100 Endurance Run lottery. On December 5, my name was drawn from the hat, solidifying my entry into the grandaddy of all ultras: ?STATES?. I have been teaching elementary school since 1985, and am currently a fourth grade teacher in Sahuarita, Arizona, just south of Tucson. My students are great and are very excited about the 100 mile race. I just love
my kids.

Amy is taking part in the Country Music Marathon in Nashville today along with Team LIVESTRONG. Join us for our other Team LIVESTRONG events and go to www.livestrong.org/team to sign up!

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33 thoughts on “Amy Dodson: One Leg. One Lung. 100 Miles.”

  1. Wes says:

    I was not one of the beautiful people.

    NOT.TRUE! Well done, Amy…

  2. Emanuel Simoes says:

    You are one of the beautiful people. You just didn’t know it yet, when in college.

  3. Jen B says:

    I read this and I felt like I was reading a story about me. You are so strong and I am envious of you in being able to accept your new life as an amputee and a cancer survivor in such an inspirationally way. I hope to one day be the same. All the best of luck to you in your 100 mile race.

  4. melody mustafa says:

    Amy, what an inspired life! you are an amazing woman! you have given me the courage to recommit to some goals i had decided were unimportant! Thanks and since I’m in Tucson I hope to meet you some time at one of our races. Melody

  5. Nadia Habib says:

    You are just GREAT!May God Bless You!
    Good luck in your future races, keep doing the great job & giving hope to everyone!

  6. Melissa Hyman Guezmir says:

    Amy, You are as BEAUTIFUL today as you were when I first met you at Secrist Jr. High, many, many, many moons ago! Keep up the great work and FEEL WELL!!! *Hugs* Melissa :)

  7. Brad says:

    You rock, thanks for the inspiration

  8. Rhoda says:

    thank you for your story, it makes one grateful for the little things that we do have. All the best for your future competitions. xo

  9. Marcella Young says:

    You continue to amaze me! I wish you the best tomorrow!
    Marcella

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  11. Beth Heath says:

    This story goes in my favorites to be remembered and shared with others (and my students)! We miss you at Madison, but are so glad life is good in Arizona!!

  12. Louis Colaizzo says:

    Amy, it was awesome running and talking with you today. I’m the guy that ran with you from mile 17 – 21. Too tired to keep pace, I let you run ahead. I was looking for you at the finish for a photo but I’m guessing you were smart and left for cover rather than staying out in the thunderstorm. lcolaizzo@live.com

  13. Very well done! truly indpiring and putsa warm fuzzy smile on my face.

  14. Jeff Simpson says:

    Amy, you are my hero. Your brother Jeff.

  15. Fred says:

    Amy,

    Your story is very compelling. Your story gives me hope because I’m dealing with health issues that are keeping me from getting to two different marathons that I have trained so hard for.

    I sit with a hard cast on my left leg as I e-mail you and can’t wait to get back on the road once again.

    You are a blessing to the world and I thank you for this…

    GOD BLESS
    Fredo

  16. Paul Nolen says:

    Amy…wow!!! You WERE (are) one of the beautiful people…in so many ways…you were always special…now you are showing the world…it is a better place having you in it!! What an inspiration!!

    Paul

  17. phillip says:

    An inspiration. Just been diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma in lower leg and scared. Your story gives great hope x

  18. Amy you inspire me to be able to run some day soon following my below knee amputation 6 weeks ago. I have done many triathlons and thought since my surgery I would have to give them up but thanks to you on the cover of runner’s world I know there is hope for me. Thanks a bunch for giving me hope during this difficult time in my life.

  19. Richard ( Dick ) Caspers says:

    Hello Amy, I saw you many places in Austin 2012 Live Strong 1/2 & Full, also interviews on the news, and at the end of the race. A few years ago I too had a rare sarcoma cancer in my thigh.. ( 1 in 5 million )though they did surgery and got it along with some muscle tissue and 6 weeks of radiation, and the doctor was very concerned that it could end up in my lungs..so far so good.. so they say..huh. Any way your a great one…so much charisma and strength……….

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  21. Eliot El Lee says:

    Amy, thank you thank you for sharing your story and keeping on with your athletic passions! Stories like yours keep me going beyond my limits…defying boundaries and breaking barriers! Keep it up!

  22. Dennis Hall says:

    I will file this in my favorite folder. “So, what’s YOUR excuse?”

  23. Colbert Julieann says:

    Amy, you are an incredible person. This made me so happy to read!

  24. Terry says:

    Hey Amy,

    You are an amazing person. We are writing from Singapore, and we are currently help a 7 yr old gal who is suffering from Sarcoma too. Similar to yours, the cancer cells have spread to the lungs. We hope you could write to us and give her some encouragement. Our website is http://www.saving-diane.com and our email is terry@saving-diane.com

    Thank you.

  25. Kdsilverski100 says:

    Hey Amy my cousin had cancer once but nothing as severe as yours but I know that it takes a toll on everyone in the family and everyone who heard about it. She’s only four years old but she’s fighting on. Just know that everyone thinks your a miracle worker by opening all of our hearts. -Kayla Dodson

  26. Gisele Laliberte says:

    Prouf of youi Amym Your brother friend (Phoenix from Montreal)

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  30. Chris Padilla says:

    OMG! You’re one of the most beautiful people I have ever seen! Thank you for your story.

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