One Gimli-born man, who was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, is set to run 30 kilometres across frozen Lake Winnipeg on Saturday.
Just over two years ago, Chris Isfeld was diagnosed with skin cancer that spread to almost all his organs and a lot of his bones, including his hips, spine, and pelvis. At one point, the tumours even caused him to become partially paralyzed from the waist down.
“We weren’t sure (the feeling in my legs) would come back fully, but a few months later I was in fairly normal shape, but still full of cancer,” he said, noting within a few months he regained feeling in his legs.
“But the radiation treatment shrunk those tumours that were causing the paralysis.”
Along with the radiation treatment, Isfeld was put on immunotherapy treatment that “miraculously reversed the cancer.”
The 49-year-old had his last treatment a few weeks ago. His last PET scan in November 2019 showed he only had one active tumour left on his adrenal gland, which was showing signs of shrinking.
He said he was a runner before his diagnosis, and just over a year ago made the decision to get back into the sport.
“It became a goal of mine that I get back into running again,” he said.
HOW THE IDEA CAME TO BE
Isfeld said he came across a picture of his high school friend, Shawn Bjornsson, who posted on Facebook after he had just completed a run in the freezing cold temperatures of a Winnipeg winter.
“I took a look at that picture and jokingly said ‘Race you across the lake.’ And then a week later, I had actually put some thought into it and thought that’s a really good idea. It’s a great goal for me to set,” he said.
Isfeld said he approached his friend about actually completing the run across Lake Winnipeg, and he agreed.
The pair are set to make the journey on March 7, in hopes of raising $30,000 for the Save Your Skin Foundation.
THE ROLE OF RUNNING
Isfeld said running played a big part in his recovery, specifically from a mental standpoint.
“Well the whole thing, setting that goal, giving myself something positive to do and focusing on the training, you know, mentally was very crucial for my recovery, I believe,” he said.
People from all over the world, who have heard the Manitoban’s story, have reached out and told him that he’s made them rethink their situation and want to take a more active role in their own recovery.
“It gives hope to them, to their loved ones, especially in the beginning, in that initial diagnosis is extremely scary,” Isfeld said.
WHY THE SAVE YOUR SKIN FOUNDATION
The Save Your Skin Foundation is a patient-led, non-profit that’s dedicated to the education, advocacy, and awareness of non-melanoma skin cancers, as well as melanoma and ocular melanoma.
Isfeld said he chose this foundation because of everything it has done for him.
“They’ve been certainly instrumental in making sure that I got the proper care that I needed at the time,” he said.
Isfeld said going forward, he hopes this run could become an annual event with multiple runners.
“I would love there to be a bit of a legacy race and for it to be something that many people do on an annual basis.”
Anyone who would like to donate to Isfeld’s run, called ‘A Viking’s Challenge,’ can do so online.