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Local woman to compete in Morro Bay Ironman on 5-year anniversary of beating cancer

Melodie Grubbs.jpg
Posted at 6:50 PM, May 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-16 14:27:28-04

Melodie Grubbs, a San Luis Obispo resident and single mother of two, is training like many others for the Ironman 70.3 in Morro Bay this Saturday, May 20.

But for Grubbs, there's something special about the date of May 20 — it’s the five-year anniversary of discovering she was officially cancer-free.

She attempted a Sprint Triathlon a few months ago and asked her longtime friend, triathlete Ed Narvaez, for some tips.

“I said, ‘Great! I can give you some tips! When is the race?’ to which she replied, 'Tomorrow!'”, Narvaez recalled.

He said either one of two things would happen — she would either end the race as a one-and-done, or she was going to fall madly in love with the sport.

Grubbs has since been training for the half Ironman that will involve a 1.2-mile protected swim in Morro Bay, a 56-mile bike ride along Highway 1, and a 13.1-mile run starting at the base of Morro Rock through the Embarcadero to the finish line downtown.

Prior to being diagnosed with cancer, Grubbs also had to deal with multiple sclerosis and sought medical treatment to prevent relapsing.

“I was just working one day at home and on my computer, sitting on my table and went to get up just to get a cup of coffee or I don't even remember and just fell down,” Grubbs said. “I had lost complete feeling from my left knee down and I just couldn't feel my leg at all.”

The mother of two had been on medication for roughly five years and felt her symptoms of MS had been relatively stable and she had regained her mobility.

“My vision had gotten better,” she said. “Once I had gotten on medication, I've had like two or three relapses since my initial year-and-a-half of really bad symptoms.”

At 36 years old, after a routine exam, Grubbs was diagnosed with reproductive system cancer. The news came three days before Christmas.

“That was kind of a shock,” Grubbs recalled. “I was just working hard. I was a manager at the time at another environmental nonprofit getting ready for Christmas celebrations with the family.”

Grubbs’ neurologist at UCLA sent her to a special oncologist where her treatment plan had been laid out for her with the help of a tumor board. Melodie received a radical hysterectomy. All her reproductive organs were removed along with scar tissue surrounding the organs and about a dozen lymph nodes in her pelvic region.

If that weren’t enough to endure, Grubbs' surgeons told her post-surgery that they weren’t able to get rid of all the margins of the tumor. After taking time to heal, Grubbs followed the radical hysterectomy with pelvic radiation for two more months. After that — an internal radiation procedure.

“Emotionally, I didn’t realize the impact it would have on me afterward,” the mother of two recalled. “The normal ten years or so of menopause that a woman would have in her fifties and sixties, I had it within weeks. It was all condensed and really intense.”

While Melodie was fortunate enough to come out on the other side of the cancer diagnosis, her aunt was not.

Lili Fe Yanoria Singh, aka Bing, lost her battle with colon cancer in January of 2022.

“I feel like at least provided some support on how to navigate through the emotions, doctor's visits, scans, and what happens after one treatment. Sometimes it's really useful to just have cancer people going through cancer or cancer survivors just share that experience in hopes to help others.”

No matter the obstacles that stood in Melodie’s way, she wakes up with the attitude of “I get to get up today” not “I have to get up today.”

After Saturday’s Ironman 70.2 in Morro Bay, Melodie and Ed will compete together in Tempe, Arizona this November in a bid to compete in the Ironman 140.6.