For anyone, hearing you’ve been diagnosed with cancer is a hard truth to accept. No matter what stage of disease people are diagnosed with, stories are often shared about cancer patients trying to stay positive and do their best to live life uninterrupted.
So, in July 2014, when Riverside resident Bart Richards was told he had Stage III colon cancer, the last thing that came to mind was giving up hope.
The first thing? Physically and mentally doing everything he could to beat his cancer.
A few months following his diagnosis, Richards had surgery to remove nearly a foot of his colon, starting chemotherapy soon after.
“Chemotherapy was one of the hardest processes I’ve ever been through,” Richards said. “It takes every bit of energy and mental toughness to show up for your chemo session.”
Following six months and 12 rounds of chemotherapy, Richards started his road to recovery, with exercise playing a huge role in the task.
After learning he was cancer-free, Richards felt the time was right to put all of his energy towards a new yet familiar goal — pushing his body towards a great goal.
While Richards had always been an athletic guy as a runner and rower, he was unsure at first about a new athletic feat to tackle. He had done several triathlons as an adult, but racing was certainly not the first thing that came to mind. However, following a discussion with a friend, Richards figured the timing was perfect to push his body to its limits — again.
Thus, he began training for the 2016 Chicago Triathlon.
“With a friend of mine, we were sitting back having beers at a bar and he said, ‘Why don’t we do this?'” Richards said. “So, we did it. It was a little bit of a challenge, but I had done it before and thought it would be a fun experience.”
As a part of his triathlon participation last year, Richards was encouraged by a friend to use his story of fighting cancer to fundraise towards a medical cause in conjunction with training. With a team, Richards helped raise $10,000 for Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, with money raised by donations going towards the opening of a new infusion center for cancer patients.
Following a successful race last year, Richards decided to go for round two and compete again this year.
To prepare, Richards’ schedule consisted of biking on weekends, swimming at Berwyn’s Pav YMCA and the Riverside Swim Club, and exercising on family trips to his family’s cottage in Michigan.
“I like to push myself, and it gives me something to strive for outside of work and gives me something to put my energy towards,” Richards said about what motivates him for triathlon preparation.
At this year’s event held last weekend in downtown Chicago, Richards and his team finished 21st out of 93 teams in the relay competition with a time of 2:34:27.
When asked about the importance of remaining active following a health crisis, Richards said there is nothing difficult about upping the ante on something he already loves to do.
“I’m lucky because I enjoy the aerobic exercises, so I don’t mind,” he said. “Some people just hate running, for instance. I don’t mind the swimming, getting into a pool and doing laps. There’s just something about exercise that I enjoy. [Also] the challenge is nice because it’s the different disciplines with the biking, the swimming and the running, and that’s a little more attractive to me than just running a marathon.”
And, as for life after cancer?
“Every day is a bit of a struggle,” he said. “You have to get regular checkups and that’s always a little nerve-wracking, so it can be a challenge.”
Richards, a Riverside resident since 2008, is married to Shelley and has two children, Joshua, 15, and Kendall, 12. When he is not training, he can be found spending time with his family, working as a management consultant with Claro Healthcare, a healthcare performance service corporation, and volunteering at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center.