(WGHP) — Running runs in the family for Colleen Sands.
Her father, a triathlete, inspired her to explore her own mental and physical test of endurance by competing in her first full Ironman triathlon.
That was in 2016. Years later, she would get the urge to do it again.
“After six years of not training for such a hard race, I was like… ‘I want to do it again, but I want to do it for a reason beyond myself,’” she said,
Her wetsuit and race number may have been part of her uniform on race day, but normally, it’s a pair of scrubs.
Sands is an oncology nurse in the Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center.
She wanted to honor her patients while celebrating a milestone: 10 years in nursing since graduating from UNC Greensboro in 2012.
“I wanted to raise $10,000 to represent my ten years of service at Baptist, so I was like ‘I want to do something to raise money, but I want it to be a direct benefit to the patients that I see on a daily basis,’” she said.
She competed in Lake Placid New York in July one day after her 10-year nursing anniversary.
Sands surpassed her goal and raised more than $12,000 for the Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Cancer Patient Support Program.
That fund provides financial support to help patients cover lodging, food and transportation among other expenses.
Sands relied on family, friends and social media for donations. She didn’t want her patients to know what she was doing.
“These people are going through a lot more…so I want the focus to be on them and not to be on me,” she said.
However, the support since completing the race has been positive.
It’s a reminder that people are by their side willing to help them get to the finish line.
“I love just to encourage other people. Sometimes I just want to go be the supporter at a race and be the person to cheer people on,” Sands said.