In her heyday, Teresa Beane “was a hell of an athlete,” says her daughter, Katie Arnold.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, Beane “lived with grace and zest” until January 2013. She was, says Arnold, a “warrior.”
Last year, in her mother’s honor, Arnold did just one leg of the Tri for a Cure triathlon. But this year, she plans to run, swim and bike in the seventh annual event.
“I promised myself that I would do everything that I could to complete the whole Tri in 2014,” Arnold said.
Arnold, 33, who lives in Portland, finished the one-third-mile swim last year alongside her best friend, Maggie Connolly, who also competed in the 15-mile bike ride and 3-mile run. Arnold completed the swim in about 17 minutes.
But Arnold was still proud of herself for participating as a member of the “Bust a Move” team she formed with Connolly.
“It felt good,” Arnold said. “It really changed me. It was really empowering to be with the other women.”
According to Arnold, her mother swam, ran, played several sports, and was “fiercely competitive.” After her diagnosis, her mother was especially competitive when it came to her fight against cancer, Arnold said.
Connolly introduced Arnold to sheJAMs, an organization that offers training programs for triathletes, which also helped Arnold secure a spot in this year’s Tri for a Cure. As a member of sheJAMs, Arnold, who did not earn a spot in the lottery, was given the opportunity to write a letter about why she wanted to participate in the Tri for a Cure, and got in.
“They have a whole triathlon training program, where you swim every week, bike every week and run every week. It helps you get in the shape you need to complete the Tri,” Arnold said, of sheJAMs.
“I had gained a ton of weight and wasn’t active at all,” Arnold said. “Training for the Tri last year was difficult for me.”
She moved to Maine from Boston to take care of her mother in 2010, she said, and at the time, it was her primary job. Needless to say, Arnold said, “I lost myself those last few years. I completely threw myself into that role.”
Her mother had “a particularly horrible form of cancer during those last few years due to the massive amounts of radiation she was treated with.”
Diagnosed as “malignant fungating wounds,” her mother’s tumors “stretched around her chest, torso and back – open wounds that required several excruciating dressing changes a day,” Arnold said.
As her mother’s caretaker, Arnold gained 100 pounds and ate food simply for “comfort,” she said. After her mother died, however, Arnold was determined to rediscover her “old self.”
Arnold began exercising by walking and doing yoga, and became a certified yoga instructor last September at Spiral Tree Yoga and Wellness Studio in Portland.
“I remembered the athlete in me,” she said.
She is also a childbirth educator, Reiki practitioner and writer.
For Arnold, participating in Tri for a Cure feels like being a member of “one giant supportive team,” an experience that she calls “transformative” and “emotional. And, it’s a way for Arnold to commit to becoming healthy again.
“At the same time, I can raise money for a cause that is really important to me because of my experience of losing my mother to breast cancer,” Arnold said.
She also wants to remain strong for her 21?2-year-old son Albie.
Arnold has many memories of swimming with her mother before she became sick, she said. While training for Tri for a Cure, Arnold was doing laps in the open water on Crystal Lake in Gray when it felt like her mother was right beside her.
“It’s healing for me,” she said. “Swimming in the open water is the closest I’ve felt with her. I found myself crying tears of gratitude and joy for the opportunity to be close to my mama in the water on more than one occasion.”
Arnold said that she promised herself and her mother that she would become healthy and keep swimming in her honor. Completing the Tri for a Cure, Arnold said, is a step toward keeping that promise as she continues on her fitness journey.
“Being at the event was one of the most beautiful, amazing experiences I have had,” said Arnold.
Tri for a Cure, she said, has given her hope. For her, it’s about “getting healthy, raising money for an organization and helping so many people who need it and deserve it.
“To me, it is really an opportunity to come home to myself and honor my mother and all other mothers and daughters who have walked this journey with us,” Arnold said. “I am still very overweight, but I am moving in the right direction and I am determined.”
Katie Arnold, from Portland, sports a wetsuit during a swim training session at Crystal Lake in Gray last year. Katie Arnold, right, and her mother Teresa Beane, who died in January 2013 after a 10-year fight with breast cancer.