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Adventure Sports

with Stefan Nestler

Training for life: Outdoor against Cancer

Petra Thaller

After the expedition to Papua New Guinea, another one followed: the most dangerous expedition in Petra Thaller’s life. In December 2014, the German journalist had climbed the Carstensz Pyramid, with an altitude of 4,884 meters the highest mountain of Oceania, making it one of the “Seven Summits”, the highest peaks on all continents. Shortly after her return Petra realized that her breast was changing. The doctor’s diagnosis: cancer. Six tumors in her right breast. Later, even a seventh developed. Thaller was committed to fight against the disease, the full program: surgery, chemotherapy, antibody therapy. And she continued to do sports. “I was really fit back then,” the 55-year-old from the German town of Munich tells me. “I started super-trained into chemotherapy, and I’ve always been doing sports during all twelve therapy cycles. I continued to run. And I was fine.” Petra wanted to share this experience with other cancer patients. Therefore she founded the initiative “Outdoor against Cancer” (OaC).

Good for the psyche

Snowshoeing with “Outdoor against Cancer”

“At that time there were simply no outdoor activities for cancer patients,” says Thaller. She ran along with her daughter and her son. “I told them, ‘If I feel bad, you can kick me in the ass and send me out.’ And that’s what they did.” Thanks to OaC, the situation for cancer patients who want to do outdoor sports despite their disease has changed. Groups meet regularly, whether for jogging, circuit training, snowshoeing, mountain biking or sailing. And the project is expanding: from Munich to all of Germany. OaC programs are soon to be available in other European countries too. “I just realized that my psyche benefitted from my sporting activities,” Petra describes her experiences during chemotherapy. “I just had no depression. I never thought about the reason why I got cancer, even though I always had eaten healthy and done a lot of sports. And I also didn’t think about the possibility to die of cancer. It was just not my scene.”

Here and now

Petra at the Carstensz Pyramid in 2014

Thaller exudes an immense joy of life that is contagious. “I don’t want to miss enjoying life,” says Petra. She tells of a 44-year-old man who is suffering from a brain tumor. He did not leave his house for five months after the diagnosis of cancer. Today he is one of the regular members of her training group: “He once said, ‘Petra makes me fit again’. That was actually the biggest gift.” I ask her whether doing sports is more training for her body or for her soul.  “It’s training for life,” answers Thaller. Survival Training? She shakes her head. “Training for life. It has nothing to do with survival. Enjoy life, here and now!” This is the message she wants to give to other cancer patients: “Get out! Do something, go on a trip! Life is taking place now and not in maybe five years, when someone says, you are out of the woods now.”

Next destination: Aconcagua

Her last chemotherapy is long behind Petra Thaller, half a year ago she underwent her last antibody therapy. Is she over the hump? “When in your live you are ever over the hump?” Petra says, laughing. “I never thought that it could go wrong. Therefore maybe I am a good example that it can go well.” The expedition to the Carstensz Pyramid is soon to be followed by a new one: “I already have a goal for next year,” says Petra. “I’ll go to Aconcagua.” The highest mountain of South America (6,962 m) also belongs to the “Seven Summits”. The highest of all mountains is not an issue for her, says Thaller: “Everest has never interested me.” She has already climbed her personal Mount Everest anyway.


23. February 2017 | 15:52