Terri doesn’t let Cancer slow her down

My passion is DRAG RACING and I’m a wife, mother and grandmother. I became involved in this fantastic motorsport on 24th July 1993 with my first pass being in a manual Bluebird Station Wagon that ran 19 seconds over the quarter mile. I raced at Street Meeting events held at Willowbank Raceway, Queensland, Australia…this being our home track. After a while a more suitable vehicle was needed so we purchased a 308 HX Premier and the first meeting with the Premier was 4th September 1993. I then progressed to major events in 1998 competing in the Super Street Bracket. Again there was a need for a different race car and the Premier was put to rest with its replacement being a Rover. RACE # 3072 Best ET: 11.10 @ 122.73MPH over the ¼ mile.

My passion is DRAG RACING and I’m a wife, mother and grandmother, and I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2003 aged 47 years.

Name:  Terri Sander aka mama
My current race car is a left-hand drive Rover called “MAMA’S TOY”
Its debut was late 1998 and it sports:
350 Chev engine
Turbo 400 gearbox
3000 convertor
Ladder bar rear end
700 CFM Holley carbi
26 x 9 Hoosier slicks

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2003 aged 47 years. I found a rather large lump in my left breast which led to surgery having a Lumpectomy performed. Cancer was also present in the lymph nodes hence these were all removed as well. My initial reaction was shock and I thought I wouldn’t make it. My hospital treatments were radium and chemotherapy sessions that made me quite ill for weeks on end. Like most others who have endured these treatments I lost my hair even my eyebrows. Finally after a couple of years I began to feel normal and was told I was clear of all cancer. YAHOO!

Then August 2011 came…I’m still competing and loving my drag racing. It’s 9pm and I’m being rushed to the Princess Alexander Hospital in Brisbane for immediate surgery on my spine. Cancer had reared its ugly head once again. After surgery I was a right mess and now faced many months of recovery. The surgery went well but not all the cancer was removed. I was left with screws and a rod in my back which caused tremendous pain and I was unable to walk for a few months. After having many physiotherapy sessions I was determined not to give up. I worked hard and now have the ability to walk with the aid of a crutch.

I raced for 10 years before being diagnosed with breast cancer and after this my drag racing saw me through some of the tough times and was literally my saviour. I would go to the track to race when I was well enough and I drew strength from this activity that kept my spirits high. My love of this sport got me off the lounge and back on track. It was a place to conquer all fears and allowed me to become the aggressor against that which set about destroying my life.

At present I am unable to walk long distances and rely on a wheelchair sometimes. Most times though I manage to get around like I said with the aid of a crutch or trolley in the shopping centres. My body aches every day and the oncology doctors say the disease is terminal but with pain management I am now able to do most home duties. I struggle with the heat and my daily stamina can be rather low some days.

In the last 2 years I have only been on the track a handful of times. My heart aches for racing but I try to stay positive and see each day as a blessing. To be able to compete I have decided to try a cool vest to overcome the heat and I will definitely have the need to rest between races.

Most regular racers at the track are aware of my illness and treat me no differently which is very nice.

I have been involved in drag racing for 20 years and have competed in open competition against males and females, young and old and I do feel I am treated equally by most people. There can be the odd person who may feel uncomfortable around me and don’t know how to have a conversation with me due to knowing I have this illness.

I have struggled (due to my health) for the last 2 years to be on the track and I know I may have to face the fact that I may have to give up my beloved sport sooner than I would like. This thought crushes me to the core but sometimes we just have to accept change. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I may not be able to attend track meetings and support others with their racing.

Well I like to think that I do use my health issue/disability to inspire others. Those with a similar health issue have said to me directly on many occasions (at the track and off) that to them I am inspiring. I use my racing to promote breast cancer awareness by holding (for the last 5 years) a “Mini-Field of Women” breast cancer awareness event that I organise through BREAST CANCER NETWORK AUSTRALIA and Willowbank Raceway. Our 2013 event was the most successful to date thanks to the track management, Powercruise’s Michael (Gup) Gilbert, Dave Reid photography and many more supporters and of course my wonderful family, friends, fellow racers and the general public. This year’s event is already marked on the calendar for 25th October.

My family and friends have always been behind my racing and would quite often be at the track cheering me on to do well. It’s great to have our children there sometimes and even greater to have our grandchildren attend from time to time.

I have achieved much in my racing career and the most memorable was winning the right be the first person down a drag strip anywhere in the world in the NEW MILLENNIUM. On the Eve of the New Millennium Willowbank Raceway had decided to have a shootout event for someone to win the right to be the first person down a drag strip anywhere in the world in the New Millennium. In order to achieve this one had to first win their bracket and with 6 brackets and the dial-in shootout, it was not going to be an easy task. I was lucky enough to win the ladies bracket and ran 11.963 on an 11.96 dial-in to win the shootout and at 4 minutes past midnight on the 1/1/2000 I made a solo pass down Willowbank Raceway to be the first person in the world down a drag strip in the New Millennium.

My best achievement was winning the coveted gold ANDRA (Australian National Drag Racing Association) Christmas tree trophy for the 2010 AUSTRALIAN CHAMPIONSHIP in our Super Street bracket. We have 3 gold ANDRA Christmas tree trophies adorning our living room and with much pride I must say.

I’m not one to give up easily! So my message to anyone who thinks they can’t because their body won’t let them is to make a do-able plan, stick with it and seek support from family and friends when it’s needed. How many times have we heard of people being told for instance they may never walk again and somehow they have managed to do just that. I myself have had to overcome many obstacles. One example of this is I thought for a while that I would be wheelchair bound but my mind had other ideas. You’d be surprised at the things you can do and obstacles you can overcome just by setting your mind upon a goal. Fill your mind daily with lots of positive thoughts…things will change.

I sincerely hope your future journey is one of good health and happiness.


Written by Terri Sander in 2016 for Girls Torque Motorsport. Unfortunately Terri passed away in January 2018, but her words still have a strong and personal message.

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