A decade of Pink Triathlon: The Debbie Jeans story

The month of October is widely celebrated at as the breast cancer awareness month.

MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE

And this weekend the Pink Project in conjunction with Triathlon Zimbabwe are set to stage the annual 10th edition of the Pink Day Fun Triathlon which seeks to raise awareness as well as funds towards breast cancer initiatives.

Renowned Zimbabwean Judoka Debbie Jeans, who is the founder of Pink Project, is the driver behind the annual event which in now permanent fixture on the local triathlon calendar.

The event, which will be held on Sunday at Mt Pleasant Pool, will see triathletes from as young as six years compete for spot prizes on the day.

All the proceeds will be donated to the Cancer Association of Zimbabwe.

“The objective of the Pink Project and TZ smart partnership in organizing the annual Pink Triathlon are to promote awareness of breast cancer prevention, early detection and rehabilitation,” Jeans said. “It’s also about raising funds for the Cancer Centre, highest priority being the Reach for Recovery unit which is responsible for guiding a breast cancer patient through the journey from diagnosis to treatment to recovery and reintegration into normal society.

“All volunteers are breast cancer survivors and services are free of charge. It’s also a show support for anyone and everyone touched by breast cancer.”

And for Jeans, personal experience prompted her to start the project after her mother who is a breast cancer survivor and who was first diagnosed 27 years ago.
Jeans was also diagnosed of breast cancer on the eve of the third installment of the Pink Triathlon event.

“I was personally motivated to start this event a decade ago in gratitude for my mum, Pat Warren an 8th Dan judoka, who had breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy and is still in excellent health at 82 years of age, thanks to early detection and treatment she is now a 27 year ‘thrivor’,” Jeans said. “The irony was that exactly seven years ago on Saturday 24th
October, I received a breast cancer diagnosis. In shock and disbelief, Austin (my husband) and I left the surgeon’s rooms and went straight to Mount Pleasant Pool where we were due to set up for the third Pink Triathlon the following day.

“We didn’t tell anyone on the Sunday except three people and to stand there at the briefing, suddenly finding myself on the flip side of the breast cancer coin. Looking out at the wonderful sea of pink and so many people of all ages, shapes and sizes who had come out in support of breast cancer brought tears to my eyes.

“And words fail me to describe the hope it gave Austin, myself and my children in our dark despair. Luckily, I also caught it early and had the privilege of a wonderful clinical team in South Africa; also having a double mastectomy and taking a hormone treatment for five years.

“For Austin and I, the experience motivated our passion for promoting, teaching, and sharing health, wellness and lifestyle medicine as interventions in the prevention, treatment and remission of all metabolic disease, including cancer.

“To this end, the Pink Project was created here in Zimbabwe in 2014 when I returned from SA to identify, support and facilitate the well-being of all cancer patients and their families through education, exercise, nutrition and ultimately to give them back the power taken away when someone finds themselves suddenly thrown into a cancer diagnosis situation.”

ZIMWORX, part of Global BP Solutions are covering sponsorship costs for the event.

TZ chairman Dave Ellis said he was pleased that his association has been hosting the event for the past decade.

“The ‘Pink Day’ is an integral part of what we are all about when it comes to the health of an individual while it’s an important part of our ethos as Triathlon Zimbabwe. We are really happy to have been involved with the pink day for the past 10 years,” Ellis said.

“Debbie Jeans with her team has been at the centre of this event, she is such an inspiration herself and we have worked with her for a long time. We have another event coming up which is in support male cancer issues. We are always there to support such initiatives and making sure the money raised will be used in the right way. We also used to have an orange day to fund-raise for Kids cancer patients but it has been co-opted into theses bigger events.”

Classified as a low risk sport, Triathlon is one of the sport codes that has been holding competitions in the Covid-19 environment, albeit under strict guidelines, since August.
This story was originally published by the Weekly Digest, an AMH publication.

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