Edit ModuleShow Tags

Deena Deardurff Schmidt



AS A MEMBER of the 1972 U.S. Olympic swim team, Deena Deardurff Schmidt brought home the highest honor in sport — a gold medal. At the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure this November 2, her eyes will be on a very different prize. Named Komen’s 2008 Honorary Breast Cancer Survivor, Schmidt serves as a spokesperson to help raise awareness of the disease and, ultimately, find a cure.

“My hope is to educate women [so they know that] anyone can get breast cancer — it doesn’t discriminate,” says Schmidt. “I am as healthy as anyone, and it didn’t bypass me.”

With an impressive competitive swimming career behind her, and a job as head swimming coach at San Diego State University (she has since left SDSU and coaches privately), cancer was the last thing on Schmidt’s mind when she was diagnosed at 47. “Even though I had been coaching women, I had never been around breast cancer,” she says. When she discovered a lump during a routine self-exam in the shower, she knew right away what it was.

“When you get diagnosed, you lose control of your life,” she says. “As an athlete and a coach, I felt I had control — then suddenly I didn’t.” She took an aggressive approach to her treatment, undergoing two lumpectomy surgeries, a radical mastectomy and five months of chemotherapy. Schmidt believes her athletic attributes — a positive attitude, focus and experience with pain management — helped her through treatment. She also maintained regular beach walks through it all.

“My favorite thing is to walk down at Mission Beach,” she says. “It’s the one thing I kept doing, even when I was throwing up every 20 yards.”

Schmidt’s cancer has been in remission for four years. She still walks that 51⁄2-mile stretch regularly with friends. A chance meeting with a stranger during one of those walks inspired her to volunteer with Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

“[This woman] had no hair and told me she was dying, and that her sister and mother had died, too,” recalls Schmidt. “It hit me: I needed to give back and do something,” she says. She began volunteering for Komen, which led to her current role as this year’s Honorary Breast Cancer Survivor. Susan G. Komen for the Cure has distributed more than $6 million to local organizations providing breast-cancer education, screening, diagnostics, treatment and patient support for the uninsured or underinsured in San Diego County.

“When I first got diagnosed, I thought I was going to be able to discreetly go through cancer, because I didn’t want to upset everybody,” says Schmidt. “Once I realized that wasn’t possible, I kind of embraced it. I am meant to help other people go through this. For the rest of my life, that’s something I will try to do in whatever way I can.”

On November 2, Deena Deardurff Schmidt joins some 13,000 San Diegans in Balboa Park for the 12th annual Susan G. Komen San Diego Race for the Cure. A survivor ceremony, held prior to the race, recognizes Schmidt and other San Diego breast-cancer survivors. Sign up for the Race for the Cure online at sdkomen.org or call 760-692-2900 for an entry form.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

Stop Cheapening Mexican Food

Just stop it.

The Best Spots for Beach Bonfires in San Diego

All the best places to bask in the glow of a firepit

In Praise of Beer Fests

April and May have been filled with sudsy celebrations
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Vote Now for San Diego's Best Restaurants 2019
    From pho to fries, you can choose San Diego's best eats and drinks in 99 categories
  2. First Look: Il Dandy
    Michelin-starred Italian chefs open a stunner in Bankers Hill
  3. Restaurants Are Dying; Here’s the Solution
    It’s simple math, but the state of California refuses to allow it
  4. 21 Ultimate Road Trip Itineraries from San Diego
    These getaways will take you through California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Mexico
  5. Best of North County 2019
    Our annual roundup of what's up-and-coming and full-on buzzy above the 56
  6. San Diego Homebuyer’s Guide 2019
    It's possible to find an affordable home in these six up-and-coming enclaves
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Enter San Diego’s Cutest Pet Contest

Your furry family member could win a pet prize package and be featured in San Diego Magazine

Puesto's Next Top Taco

Submit your best taco recipe for the chance to win a grand prize
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags


Athena’s Pinnacle Awards Showcases Leaders in Diversity and Inclusion

Here are the winners from the event on May 7

What One San Diegan Is Doing with a Life Without Disease

Dr. Melanie McCauley went to Nepal to help build a local research infrastructure.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags