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Noblesville woman conquers cancer and life a mile at a time

Char Cooper lost her hair and sense of taste during her cancer treatment, but she never slowed down.

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — At 72, Char Cooper is always on the move.

"No matter how you feel – when you go out for a run you always feel better," Cooper said.

The Noblesville resident has run half marathons and nine marathons. She always keeps going even when a bear emerged during a race in Colorado.

"It's one time you're glad you're going slower than the person in front of you," Cooper said.

The only thing that could briefly slow her down was a breast cancer diagnosis in 2017 that came four days after she retired from her business. The news came in a phone call after she climbed Manitou Springs Incline in Colorado with her daughter.

"This is not what I wanted to hear. I was totally shocked. But I had to use my strength and determination to fight this thing," Cooper said.

Credit: Char Cooper
Char Cooper with Cardiologist Dr. Rafael Garcia-Cortes with Ascension Health, St. Vincent Medical Group.

Cooper would undergo surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in 2018. During treatment, doctors suggested Cooper be seen by a cardiologist.

"Unfortunately, during the course of treatments, there were findings to suggest the chemotherapy was starting to affect the heart function," said Dr. Rafael Garcia-Cortes with Ascension Health, St. Vincent Medical Group.

"As a result, she needed to see a specialist who could understand the cancer treatments, how to monitor them and help her heart get stronger while avoiding more cardiac damage and allowing her to continue receiving life-saving chemotherapy," Garcia-Cortes said.

Cooper lost her hair and sense of taste during her cancer treatment.

"If you can't taste anything or whatever you can taste doesn't taste good, you might as well eat broccoli because it tastes the same as ice cream," Cooper said.

Cooper kept running throughout her year of treatment and even qualified for the Boston Marathon, inspiring her cardiologist who has run seven marathons himself.

"To see her go through it and challenge herself and using it as motivation for her and others, it's really special," Garcia-Cortes said.

Cooper credits her running coach Matt Ebersole for helping her run during her chemotherapy.

"He tracked my chemo path. He would know when I would have my infusion, what would happen to my paces, slow down. Then all of a sudden, they would go a little faster 'til I was blasted again," Cooper said.

Cooper is the senior member of "Sweatsisters," seven ladies who run together. The group wore matching "Charstrong" bracelets throughout her treatment.

"Just knowing they're all part of my journey and we're part of each other's journey has been so inspiring to keep running," Cooper said.

Credit: Char Cooper

The "Sweatsisters" ran many races together including the Indy Monumental Half Marathon and the 2019 Charlevoix Half Marathon — the first time Cooper finished a half-marathon in under two hours.

"When I completed that race, I thought, 'I am back,'" Cooper said.

Credit: Char Cooper

Cooper also ran the 2019 New York City Marathon with her son, Walt, who encouraged her when she was running out of gas at mile 24.

"He looked at me and he said, 'Mom, it's great to be alive, isn't it? Well, that did it. I made my way to the finish line," Cooper said.

Cooper and her son crossed that finish line together.

Credit: Char Cooper
Char Cooper and her son Walt finishing the New York City Marathon in 2019.

Cooper is always running and finishing every race no matter how hard the course is. She continues to see her oncologist twice a year and has annual mammograms.

Her cardiologist said Cooper is doing very well but will require care in the future.

"She still requires twice-a-year clinic visits, plus yearly cardiac imaging to continue monitoring her heart function and adjusting her heart medications," Garcia-Cortes said.

"The true success we had in her story was helping Char's heart to stay strong and healthy, so her oncologist could complete all of her life-saving chemotherapies and now be cancer-free," Garcia-Cortes said.

Cooper said she's eager to compete in future marathons.

"Things happen in life. You need to have a good attitude and do your very best to get over it yourself and you get an extra little benefit to enjoy if you can help other people," Cooper said.

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