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Cancer Survivor Aims To Race 50 Tris Before 50

Jen Sommermann is working to raise money and compete in 50 triathlons before she turns 50 in 2013.

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Jen Sommermann is working to raise money and compete in 50 triathlons before she turns 50 in 2013.

It’s a good thing Jenn Sommermann discovered triathlons when she did. “I was turning 40 years old, and my friend and I were looking for a way to commemorate the occasion,” Sommermann said. “We decided to train for a triathlon.”

Because Sommermann was on the East Coast and her friend was on the West, the two trained together virtually, exchanging workout notes and messages of encouragement. Several months later, they competed in the Danskin Women’s Tri in Seattle.

“That was it, I was in love with triathlons,” Sommermann said. Little did she know, two years later the fitness she gained through the sport would help her win a battle against ovarian cancer.

It was December 2006 when Sommermann received her diagnosis. She’d been feeling out of sorts for months, but had been reluctant to see her doctor.

The symptoms for ovarian cancer are subtle: Bloating, weight gain, fatigue and indigestion are all indicators for the disease, but they are also common symptoms for many women during their monthly cycle. The main difference with ovarian cancer, explained Sommermann, is the symptoms don’t go away.

It was by chance she discovered the cancer — she was pressing on her stomach one night and came across a hard lump.

“I called my husband over, and he felt it, too,” she said. “I knew this wasn’t good.”

She went to see her physician immediately, and an ultrasound revealed a tumor about the size of an eggplant.

“I had Stage 3 ovarian cancer,” said Sommermann. “I was in shock. The disease is 94 percent curable if you catch it by Stage 2. But after that, the numbers are not in your favor.”

Read more: Espn.go.com/espnw