A Crowley native just crossed off a major goal from her bucket list.
Saturday, Isabella De la Houssaye competed in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
About 15 years ago, she made it her mission to compete in races in all 50 states. This weekend she completed that mission.
The Ironman Foundation, because of that accomplishment, gifted her with entry into the world championship on Saturday.
“I wasn’t really trying to race through it, if you will. I just thought ‘oh in my lifetime.’ And then when I got my diagnosis in January, I had to pick up the pace a little,” said De la Houssaye, who has been a runner her entire life.
Earlier this year, the 54-year-old thought the back pain she was experiencing was a sports injury.
She was blindsided when she found out it was stage 4 lung cancer.
Never having smoked and being healthy all her life, the diagnosis with no cure was shocking
“At the time I was diagnosed, it had progressed so much in the spine that I actually couldn’t walk. It had destroyed my lower spine, so the first step to recovery and getting back on was really mental. It was getting over the sadness and the focus on what I had lost when I got that diagnosis and focusing on what I still had and what cancer couldn’t take away from me,” she said.
Things like her family, friends, and racing.
The cancer had spread all over her body and surgery wasn’t possible, so she is currently on a drug trial that has helped keep the cancer from growing.
Her motto: Never give up.
After the treatments, she was slowly able to walk again. Then run half a mile. Then a marathon, and finally, compete at the Ironman World Championships.
The triathlon is 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26 miles of running.
“I did have a moment in the marathon where I thought I wasn’t going to finish. I literally blacked out on the course and fell and when I came to and realized where I was, what I had to do. It was the power of all the Louisiana prayers that really got me up and going again,” she said.
De la Houssaye now lives in New Jersey but said those prayers from Acadiana truly helped her overcome the bumps and bruises.
“My favorite [quote is] ‘failure’ is not ‘defeat’ until you stop trying. Initially I couldn’t do 26 miles, but I could do a half a mile. So I started there and that was a huge success. You just have to keep redefining, adapt if you will. You know, I always thought it was survival of the fittest, but it’s really survival of the most adaptable,” she said. “Honestly if you’d asked me back in April, I was actually airlifted out of an attempt to do a marathon because I was so sick.”
Although she is still living with cancer, the Iron Woman, mother of 5 still has some active plans for the future.
“[My cancer is] not progressing which is a success and… I may have to do Puerto Rico next, just in case,” she laughed. “I actually climbed 3 of the 7 seven summits and I think I’m going to try and climb the fourth in January. That would be Aconcagua in South America.”
Photo credit: Gregory Garnich and David Crane