This week on That Girl we are celebrating Jacki Donaldson who is an inspirational breast cancer survivor and runner. Jacki says running was never in her “line-up” until she got cancer, but after completing a half-marathon, she now knows that anything is possible.
Mom + writer + editor (JustEdits.org)
41 years old
My main sport is running. Although I dabble in other physical fitness activities (biking, swimming, P90X, and more), I always fall back on pounding the pavement. There’s just something about the constant motion, the sweat, the adrenaline, and the music in my ears that motivates me like nothing else.
Fitness/health accomplishment you are most proud of:
My biggest health accomplishment, which is tied to my biggest fitness accomplishment, is surviving breast cancer. I was diagnosed at age 34, and while I know I didn’t conquer the disease all on my own (surgery + chemo + radiation + more drug therapy played a big role), I believe my can-do attitude helped me defeat the dreadful disease. That, and my every attempt to stay active in the midst of sickness. The fitness accomplishment—accepting the challenge of a fitness trainer friend who told me that after treatment I could, and I would, run a 5K. She was right—I did. Then, I went on to run a half marathon. One day, I was bald and bloated and crashing in a hospital bed. Then, I was crushing 13.1 miles with my hair swinging the wind. Bonus: At a cancer follow-up just last week, my resting heart rate registered at 47. That makes me just plain happy.
What inspires you to get fit every day?
I exercise because it makes me feel good about myself, and it helps me maintain my weight (give or take—mostly take—a few pounds or more), and it brings me peace of mind knowing that five hours of vigorous exercise every week helps cut my chance of cancer recurrence by something like 50%. Now, that’s good medicine! I also strive to keep my heart rate low, and giving up on exercise means I’ll probably lose that low number.
What do you do when you don’t feel like working out?
I usually still work out, because I have never, ever regretted a workout, and when I feel like being lazy and slacking off, I am able to think forward and anticipate the regret I’ll feel later in the day. Now, of course, there are days when I don’t exercise, but it’s usually due to a crazy schedule, and I am able to get back on track in quick time. But if I just don’t feel like it, I know I’ve got to make it happen.
Favorite energizing meal:
Anything my mom makes because she cooks the most balanced and healthy meals —always a lean meat (nothing red, though), a veggie, sweet potato or rice, and maybe a homemade brownie to top things off (because brownies are way energizing—right?). My favorite snack is a mix of almonds and craisins, and I love a good fruit salad.
What’s your favorite way to chill post-workout?
I’m not real good at chillin’—I am always on the go and rarely just sit down and put my feet up (that would probably be a good idea, though). I do love a good post-workout hot shower, which makes me feel refreshed and alive.
What is your top kick-ass workout?
There was a time when I’d run and bike and swim, all events one right after the other—in no particular order or anything, but I’d take on all three activities on a weekend day, and I remember telling my mom (who would join me for one or two) that my ideal day would be one where I’d work out for hours on end. I mean, I’d take breaks and rest (I’m really not all that hard core), but wouldn’t it be cool if the only mission for the day was to work out and get fit? Life doesn’t afford me that option so much, and I’m typically not spunky enough to do this very often, but a kick-ass workout, for me, is one where I just keep going and going and going—then I take a hot shower!
Where is your favorite/most unique place you’ve ever exercised?
Probably Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. I went to this health and healing location on assignment to write about surviving and thriving after breast cancer. I learned to eat clean and exercise hard—I hiked up mountains, enjoyed a private and peaceful yoga session, experienced awesome fitness classes, and then got paid to document it all. Favorite. And unique. For sure.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through sports?
That anything is possible, and the fact that I never was an athlete growing up doesn’t mean I can’t be athletic as an adult. Running was never in my line-up until I got cancer. I was sure I couldn’t even make it around the block, but I took it slow—”just run for 20 minutes straight, as slow as you want,” said my fitness trainer friend when I first started out. It wasn’t as difficult as I’d imagined, and then I kept at it, adding time and distance, until the day came when I’d run for 2 hours and 12 minutes and collected a medal with the words “half marathon” on it—that’s when I realized that even a once-sick cancer girl can do anything. Do I want to run a full marathon? I think not. Do I think I can? Heck yea!
Photo: courtesy of Jacki Donaldson