Linn Dunton is not supposed to lift anything heavy, but not only does she lift things, she sends them soaring. Whether it is a shot put, discus, hammer, weight or javelin, Dunton excels at every throwing discipline there is; her versatility paid off when she brought home three Masters World Indoor Championship medals last year in Kamloops, B.C. While you wouldn’t know it by looking at her in the throwing ring, in the fall of 2007, Dunton was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the fight to save her life, Dunton underwent a massive lifestyle change and also had cancerous lymph nodes removed, leaving her with the doctor’s orders to take it easy and not strain her arm.
Cancer may have brought Linn back to the sport of track and field, but she was hardly new to the sport. As the daughter of a high school track coach, it was only natural that she joined her junior high school’s team and began to pick up the sport at 12-years-old. Dunton first considered herself a sprinter, and dabbled in every event offered at her school, never finding an event she didn’t like.
“I’ve run, jumped and thrown every event in track and field,” Dunton said. “My mother was the high school coach, so if she needed points in an event, she would throw me in there.”
The legendary coach Ken Foreman recruited Linn to Seattle Pacific University where she specialized in the javelin and began to find her niche in track and field. Linn not only excelled at the collegiate level, but also continued to compete at the USA Championships as a post-collegiate, and even qualified for the 1980 Olympic Trials.
After the Olympic trials, Dunton moved away from the track and began to build her family. Dunton worked as a coach, teacher and eventually an assistant principal at the college and high school level, and shared the love of track that her mother had instilled in her in the young athletes she mentored.
Everything changed for Dunton in the fall of 2007, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Instead of battling cancer with the normal prescription of chemotherapy and radiation, she chose to have the cancerous lymph nodes removed and fight cancer with a complete lifestyle change.
“It was a very scary decision, and it took a lot of faith,” Dunton admitted. “But I didn’t want to die, and I was convinced this [holistic way] was my best option.”
Dunton dove into her fight against cancer with her life on the line. She radically changed her diet to one of plant based foods, even though before the change, she didn’t even know what vegan meant. Dunton also paid critical attention to the levels of sleep, stress and activity in her life.
The difficult times piled on when Dunton’s mother and track and field mentor passed away in the spring of 2008. However, hope was around the corner, and Dunton found out her cancer was in remission later that summer. With memories of her mother in mind and the need to do something to celebrate life, Dunton decided it was time to throw again. She drove from her home in southern California to her parent’s home in New Mexico to pick-up her mother’s throwing implements.
“I knew my mother would want me to go back and do this,” Dunton said. “She always wanted me to get back into track and field.”
After cleaning the rust off of her implements and perfecting her own throwing form, Dunton decided she was ready to compete in masters track and field. She competed in regional, national and even world championship masters meets, and has not only made lasting friendships with her competitors, but she has also amazed her doctors.
“The doctors say I shouldn’t be able to do these things,” Dunton said. “But now the doctors are excited about my progress and tell me to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I’m really celebrating life because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. I want to do fun things that bring me joy, and for me, that is track and field.”