Team TBG: Inspiring Hope within a Community

By Todd Baldi | July 12, 2016, 12:33 a.m. (ET)

Sheila Young swims alone in the cold, dark water off the coast of California. Sunburnt and exhausted, she pushes on. Sheila feels every meter of the swim.  Her shoulders hurt and her body aches. She brushes off the nagging discomfort and continues on her journey. The thought of quitting crosses her mind but she finds the will to push through the pain by remembering the name of a patient she counseled over the past year at her job as a patient coordinator at Dr. Tiffany B. Grunwald’s surgical practice. Sheila’s job is tough. She finds her main job coordinating patient care relatively easy. The more difficult part of her job is to counsel patients once they have received “the news” that every woman hopes they never hear.

Sheila’s mind wanders. She begins to remember other patients. There are many names that cross her mind. Too many ...

She continues on. Sheila turns and gets closer to shore when she hears a familiar sound. The crowd begins to roar as they welcome swimmers back to the safety, away from the unforgiving ocean environment. She feels her toes hit the sand and then sees the Team TBG sign up ahead through her swim goggles. As she runs past the crowd, Sheila sees a familiar face she remembers well. It is a woman she recently counseled. The last time Sheila saw her, she was doubled over in the fetal position, hopelessly crying, after receiving “the news.” The woman is now smiling ear to ear, loudly ringing a cow bell and encouraging Sheila to keep going. Suddenly, Sheila has the moment of inspiration she needs to finish her journey and is tired no longer. She runs to the bike transition and goes on to complete the Malibu Triathlon.

team tbg

Team TBG

Founded by Dr. Tiffany Grunwald and Sheila Young in 2011, Team TBG has a unique place amongst triathlon training programs. Grunwald is a surgeon specializing in reconstructive procedures for women who have suffered the devastating effects of breast cancer and other ailments. The TBG triathlon team was founded after one of Grunwald’s patients underwent a double mastectomy and then proceeded to run a 5k the next day. Rather than sit contently and accept her diagnosis, the patient wanted to show that her illness could not contain her life and ran the race.

Driven by women’s stories similar to this, Team TBG has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. The original Team TBG consisted of two staff members and a friend who agreed to participate in a triathlon as a relay team. Their thought? To run the triathlon in order to honor those who had the courage to show that women undergoing breast cancer treatments could recover and lead normal lives following their treatment. These women wanted to become beacons to illustrate that being diagnosed with breast cancer is not the death sentence that many make it out to be.

Their efforts were contagious. Team TBG has built a positive community and provided an outlet for women coping with breast cancer. In recent years, Team TBG ranks have swelled to over 75 participants and now offers sponsorship slots in local races. Over 25 triathlon TBG relay teams participate in the Nautica Malibu triathlon each year. The teams are comprised mainly of women, although more men are participating as a way to support the women in their lives. Over 60 percent of team members are patients of Grunwald’s practice. Organized by Sheila, a robust training program prepares the women for the event and provides hope tor those who previously had none. Sheila explains, “We are trying to build a constructive community that provides examples of power and strength. Empowering women to not let their illness dictate their lifestyle brings hope and courage to others.” An avid triathlete herself, Sheila draws on her competitive youth swimming background and coaches the workouts on her own time outside the office.

Grunwald also participates in the triathlon training program and races as well. However, her true passion lies in paddle boarding. Not one to be left out of the fun, Grunwald organizes a monthly “Championship Paddle” that draws on her love for stand up paddle boarding. Besides getting a great workout, each participant is tasked to bring a small gift that is bundled and placed into a basket. These gift baskets are distributed to women who are struggling with the news of a recent cancer diagnosis, recovering in the hospital from surgery, or find their recovery more difficult than expected. This offering has become a fixture of Grunwald’s practice and helps communicate  the supportive message Team TBG is trying to build.

stand up paddleboard

If you plan to race the Nautica Malibu triathlon or find yourself in the Marina Del Rey California area, make sure to check out Team TBG!

Todd Baldi is a USA Triathlon Mideast Council Representative. Learn more about Team TBG at teamtbg.com or like Team TBG on Facebook.

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