Five years ago, on her son’s 11th birthday, Leanne was diagnosed with a highly aggressive form of breast cancer. “It was in December, so Christmas wasn’t very good that year,” she says with a wry laugh.
What followed was a horrendous 12 months that involved surgery to remove the lump, followed by a regimen during which, in Leanne’s words, she was “pumped full of chemo” and then given radiation. “The treatment left me paralysed on the couch for 12 months, unable to do anything,” she says.
Will to Survive
“This photo of my husband and I was taken after the cancer treatment when my hair had grown back and I was 25 kilos heavier than I am now.”
To make matters worse, the effects of such toxic treatments on Leanne’s immune system meant the likelihood of a cancer relapse was extremely high. “I went through four rounds of chemo, which itself nearly killed me, and the doctors told me the cancer could come back within 12 months,” Leanne explains. “But I just said, ‘No, I’m not having that.’”
Leanne’s iron will saw her confound the doctors. Thankfully, she is alive and determined to make the most of every minute. “They’re all a bit astounded,” she says. “It’s mind over matter, that’s what I reckon. Your body’s an amazing thing.”
A Second Run
Leanne in February 2013 after her first 12WBT Round. In this pic she is 15kg lighter and proudly pulling a pose at the 12WBT Finale Party in Brisbane.
It’s this fighting spirit that has seen Leanne reach new goals in her life. Now 49, she is fitter and healthier than ever and making great strides – literally.
When she started her first Round of 12WBT (in November 2012) Leanne thought she couldn’t run. Now, not only can she complete 5km, but she set herself the goal of running 8km in the Mother’s Day Classic, an annual event that raises funds for breast cancer research. She achieved her goal. On 12 May she ran the 8km Melbourne event in under an hour.
“This photo was taken in November 2012 in Bali. This is the pic I looked at that made me decide I needed to do something about my weight,” says Leanne.
So, what led this brave cancer survivor to join 12WBT in the first place? It all started when Leanne, who lives in the country town of Avenel, 150km north of Melbourne, was undergoing her gruelling cancer treatment. “There I was, lying on my couch all that time, but still eating like a horse. Unfortunately I didn’t get the kind of cancer where the treatment makes you not want to eat,” she jokes.
“I put on a lot of weight, and everyone around me would say, ‘Oh, for God’s sake Leanne. You’ve had cancer. Cut yourself some slack,’ which was right at the time and very well-meaning,” she says.
The problem was, however, that people were still making the same excuse for Leanne a few years later. But by that stage she was rebuilding her life.
In November 2012, after the family’s annual holiday to Bali, Leanne reached her turning point. “I looked at the photos of me and I thought, ‘You know what? I can’t look like that anymore.’” It was time for some tough love.
Back at work as a branch manager at an employment agency, Leanne had heard one of her colleagues talking about 12WBT. “She was getting astounding results from it, so I looked it up online and decided, ‘That’s what I’m going to do.’”
Learning to Run
Leanne made up her mind to commit to the program, and because she didn’t like gyms, she recruited a personal trainer who took her to the local park to do her 12WBT workouts.
“At the start I’d said to my trainer, ‘I want be able to do a sit-up, and I want to learn to run,’ because I couldn’t do either of those things,” she recalls. With sit-ups accomplished, her trainer introduced running as the warm-up to their sessions. “Then we just went for longer and longer,” Leanne says. “I was completely hooked.”
A knee injury meant putting the brakes on for a short while, but the moment it healed she got back on track. A few weeks before the Mother’s Day Classic, Leanne broke the 5km mark. She then put in place a plan to increase her distance by 1km a week up until the event.
“I love the idea of setting goals, so aiming for the Mother’s Day Classic has been great for me,” Leanne says. “My first big goal was to beat cancer, and I did that. And now I want to do this, so I’m just going to do it.”
Food For Life
Leanne and her daughter Gemma happy but “smashed” after the 12WBT Group Workout in Brisbane.
Leanne also follows the 12WBT Nutrition Plans to the letter. “Because of the cancer, I’d already been eating really healthily – organic and whole foods as much as possible – but I’d been eating way too much of it,” she says.
“I love to cook and I like to use fresh ingredients, so the fact that I get to make really nice food really appeals to me,” Leanne says.
An added bonus is that her husband Mick, a keen cyclist, has been eating the same meals and has lost 20kg as a result. Her son, Lewis, 16, still lives at home and also enjoys the 12WBT dinners Leanne cooks.
A New Image
Leanne and her daughter Gemma at Gemma’s recent engagement party. “When this photo was taken I was actually right on 26kg lighter than I was in November before I started 12WBT.”
Leanne loved being able to wear “a gorgeous dress” for her 21-year-old daughter Gemma’s recent engagement party – and was delighted by the photos afterwards. “I even look happier in them,” she says.
Leanne has reached her initial goal weight of 80kg, and plans to set a new goal weight of 70kg for her next 12WBT. Most of all, she enjoys feeling fit and healthy. “I tell people, ‘I’ve had cancer. It’s over-rated. I don’t want to ever go there again.’ So anything I can do to not go there again, I’ll do,” she says. “These days I love being more active. I feel more vital and alive.”
For a woman who’s stared down breast cancer, what more could anyone wish for?
Leanne’s Tips For Beginner Runners (and 12WBTers)
- If you’re scared of running, all you have to do is begin. I couldn’t run around a netball court at first, but I started small and just gave it a go.
- Invest in decent running shoes. I spoke to a few physiotherapists for their recommendations. Get yourself fitted for a pair that suits your feet.
- Believe in yourself. Remember that what you’re doing is for a good cause – your own health and wellbeing.