“You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt with. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding…” - Cheryl Strayed

“Hi Shal, is this a good time to talk?”

I’d been waiting for this call all week. Then it came, 5 minutes before I was set to walk on stage and present in front of thousands of people at the global company all-hands meeting. This phone call was eerily familiar. My doctor  had given me a call that started this way years earlier.

“Hi Shal. Is this a good time to talk?”

“Umm, if you have good news. :-/”

“I’m sorry. The tests came back positive. You have thyroid cancer.”  That was 2005.

So -  fast forward - when she called and asked, “Is this a good time to talk” I knew it wasn’t good news: “The tests came back positive for BRCA2 mutation.”

I learned I had an 84% chance of getting breast cancer and 27% chance of getting ovarian cancer. I needed to have a double mastectomy and an oophorectomy. I also needed to get on stage and nail the presentation.


“I’m going to watch you like a hawk. You’re not getting cancer again on my watch.”

My doctor is a total badass. This was her response when I told her that before I had the surgeries, I wanted to first try first to qualify and run the 2016 Olympic Trials.

Watch me like a hawk she - and all the specialists she referred me to - did. I qualified. I ran the Trials and I was still cancer-free. But, with that under my belt, it was time to change gears and take care of the surgeries.

This January, I had the first of two surgeries to eliminate my breast cancer risk: a double mastectomy.


Surgery was a success and just 7 days after I was back to cross-training on my shiny new Elliptigo. I was willing to change gears but determined to keep moving forward over the next twelve weeks until I could have my final reconstruction surgery and be on track for a fall marathon when the 2020 OTQ window opened. I was on my way, and then April 1st, 7am another phone call. I was barely awake. I just remember flinging the blankets and leaping out of bed.

“Shaluinn, he’s gone. I can’t believe it. Robert died. Your dad... he died.”

My world started spinning. I had just talked to him. We were set to celebrate my daughter’s 6th birthday just five days from then at Disneyland... Gone. In an instant. My biggest champion was gone forever.


The gears abruptly changed on me. The next six weeks were a blur... I went into hyper product manager mode, orchestrating every detail of his memorial services and giving him a beautiful final salute.

Then time to change gears again and complete what I had started in January. Two weeks after my dad’s funeral I went in for final breast reconstruction. Success.

So it’s now October and the OTQ window is open, how about that OTQ? Well, I’m changing gears again. The OTQ is still on the long-term goal board, but the events of this year have left me feeling like I need a full re-boot. This fall I’m taking a detour from the roads and going back to where I first fell in love with this sport: Cross Country.


Just a few weeks of training and couple of races under my belt... the gears are a bit rusty but I’m re-building and headed in the right direction.

Head up, Wings out.



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Team - Haute Volée
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Allyson Ely