BOSTON (CBS) – During this Breast Cancer Awareness month, the inspiring story of a Milton woman who’s running for her life. Struck with breast cancer five years ago, she credits running with getting her through the harsh treatments she’s endured.
Her experience is changing the way she does her job. That’s because she’s also an oncology nurse in Boston. “I just needed some sense of normalcy, because none of this is normal,” said Colleen Chin.
Even though she works with cancer patients every day, it was still a shock when she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2014. “I had 2 tumors. So I went through a mastectomy, chemo, radiation. I’ve had 8 surgeries since then,” she said.
Through it all, one of her constants is running. “When you’re faced with a cancer diagnosis everything is out of control. So for me, to be able to control one thing, which was being able to get out and go for a run, and it may not have been a 15-mile run, but if I could go run for half an hour as far as I could, then I would,” she said.
She did that even when she didn’t feel like it. “It was hard. I’d run a mile, walk a mile, run a mile, walk a mile,” she said.
A marathoner before and after her diagnosis, Colleen has tackled seven, including four Boston Marathons, while at the same time being a mom to her two young daughters and working as an oncology nurse at Dana Farber.
Her cancer journey has made her better at her job. “I just know what it’s like to be on the other side, and I also know how scary it is,” she said.
Colleen is now on a daily drug regimen, but even that has side effects she says are worse than chemo. “You just get really, really tired and some debilitating joint pain,” she said.
But still she runs. “It’s a total coping mechanism,” she said. “It’s also a way to find strength.”
Colleen is now a coach for the 261 Fearless Club, an organization started by Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run Boston. Her bib number was 261. “It’s really just about giving women strength and empowering each other to show women how strong they are inside, and they might not even know it,” she said.
On Monday, Colleen and the 261 runners will take on the Reebok Boston 10k for Women. And at the end of the month she’ll compete in the Cape Cod Marathon.