The first steps of recovery for cancer patient Bev Stevens were on a sled with 11 of her closest friends. Stevens' sled dog team, along with the time she spent mushing with them, kept her spirits high.
"It's been wonderful to be able to keep up with the sport," Stevens said. "It's kept my exercise up. It's given me a goal to work towards."
The goal Stevens is now focused on is becoming cancer-free, following her diagnosis last December with breast cancer.
The bad news came at the start of mushing season, but Stevens didn't let cancer slow her down. Even during chemotherapy, she felt strong enough to race, even winning the ExxonMobil Open's four-dog class race held in Anchorage. Through it all, Stevens has fought hard to be a cancer survivor.
Although Stevens admits she hadn't done much for prevention beyond self-exams and some exercise, she's also getting help from the Providence Alaska Medical Center. At the hospital's Oncology Rehabilitation center, prevention is a very important part for many who are cancer-free and don't want it to come back.
Cynthia Decker, one of the center's registered nurses, says health professionals estimate a 57 percent increase in new cancers over the next 20 years. One of the factors that plays a key role in that type of dramatic increase is the worldwide rate of obesity.
Experts say obesity accounts for more than 25 percent of several major cancers, meaning exercise can be key in preventing it.
"One of the things that's a lifestyle choice that people have available to them is to exercise more vigorously and more regularly, and also choose better eating," Stevens said.
Stevens says she's seen a fair number of people whose cancers have been recurring -- an experience that scares her, but doesn't defeat her. She now works on her children's books, stories of her mushing tales illustrated with her own watercolor artwork.
One time the kids wanted a puppy and my husband said, 'No, no more dogs,'" Stevens said. "They finally convinced him to have a puppy and he says 'I get to name the puppy.' So he named the puppy Nowanem."
It's a name that's more appropriate for the cancer inside Stevens' body.