Every Step Counts

Fitness Key Part of Susan Rogers' Cancer Battle

Susan Rogers
Photo: Scott Lescard

Susan Rogers won’t be setting any speed records at the CIBC Run/Walk for the Cure in October. But she will be breaking down personal barriers with every step she takes in her 5K quest.

Rogers, 48, was a regular runner who loved going to her Toronto gym and taking on distances up to the half-marathon. When pain in her leg began derailing her efforts, she, like many of us, ignored it at first, thinking she had bursitis, tightness or maybe runner’s knee. When she finally visited her doctor, X-rays revealed cancer was eating her bones from the inside out and her femur was within millimetres of fracturing. Further tests showed the disease started as breast cancer and metastasized through her hips, spine, back and legs.

Maybe cancer didn’t know it was dealing with Susan Rogers.

“I looked at my oncologist and said, ‘Here’s the deal. I’m going to beat the shit out of this and if you don’t believe it then I need to find another medical team,” she says. Rogers promised Dr. John Blondal at St. Joseph’s Health Centre, that she wouldn’t search the Internet for cures and would only deal with news in a positive way. Two years later, after intensive chemotherapy, scans last Halloween revealed 70 per cent of her “angry cancer cells were back to normal.”

Rogers says she has amazing support from her husband, Eric, 52, and their children Ryan, 20, and Emma, 17, but her rock through this ordeal has been friend Kelly Toyama. Toyama, 57, attends all of Rogers’ medical appointments, views all the cancer scans (which Rogers has never seen) and shepherds Rogers through her treatments. Toyama also offers counsel on the all-too-many life decisions that have come Rogers’ way in the past two years.

“Never take movement for granted. Never take for granted the ability to walk up a set of stairs. Being active is what gives me hope and strength,” says Rogers, adding that it wasn’t long ago that she could barely walk 100 metres down the street. “People around me have to believe that I am going to beat this or I can’t have them around me. And I’m overwhelmed by the amount of people who believe in me.”

Toyama and Rogers work with personal trainer Susan Leblanc once a week to continue trying to build her fitness.

“We are sisters united through this journey of cancer,” says Toyama. “Susan truly is my hero. When I see what she has gone through and what she has done, I’m blessed, I’m honoured that I can be the one to be with her through this journey.” Rogers is not at the finish line yet, but she’s on course. Cancer cells still infect her knees, shoulders and hips — not her outlook.

“Maybe in a year I will be able to run the race,” she says. Look for the smiling woman in the pink tutu.