Fighting to beat a tough disease
BY STEVE BUFFERY, TORONTO SUN
Toronto’s Allison Dellandrea is a Crown prosecutor with the Ministry of the Attorney General, listed as on of the Top 25 Most Influential Changemakers by Canadian Lawyer magazine.
But lately Dellandrea has been on the defensive.
That is, she has become a huge advocate for boxing, a sport she wholly embraced after getting involved in the upcoming Fight To End Cancer boxing gala benefiting the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.
“I’ve learned the art form of boxing,” said Dellandrea, following a recent workout at the Kingsway Boxing Club in Etobicoke. “I realized I had so many preconceived assumptions about what boxing was — that it was about violence, that you didn’t have to be swift to do it. I thought, ‘How hard could it be? You swing with your left, you swing with your right, and (boxers) are all a bunch of big, lunky guys.’
“Of course, as I know now, it’s much more like chess or, in athletic terms, something like fencing, maybe ballroom dance,” she continued. “There’s so much technique to this sport which I had zero appreciation of. I knew absolutely nothing about boxing. I don’t want to say I looked down my nose on it, but I was. I considered myself more of a runner.”
Dellandrea will box on May 27 at the Fight To End Cancer gala at the Old Mill Inn. Every year, white collar professionals from all walks of life — lawyers, doctors, business people, etc — train at the Kingsway Club to prepare for their bout at the gala, with proceeds going to the Princess Margaret Foundation. Like many who take the challenge, Dellandrea was neither a boxing fan nor knew much about the sport.
But now she’s hooked and as a long-time competitive athlete is totally pumped about both the training and the actual bout on May 27. She’ll match her skills against Kim Hamill, a legal assistant at DLA Piper (Canada) LLP.
“My friend told to me to come to the tryouts with no strings attached. Frankly I was humouring her a little bit and indulging her request by coming out,” said the personable mother of three.
“And I thought, ‘What’s the worse thing that could happen? I’ll get a good workout in … or a black eye,” she added with a laugh. “But they’re smart. They rope you in with wicked conditioning. The conditioning of boxing is very similar to cross fit, which is another sport that I do — very high intensity, lots of fun, a group setting. And the people here at this club are pretty amazing and inspiring.”
Dellandrea, who works mainly in the area of child exploitation offences, was made aware of the event through a friend who is a member of the Kingsway Boxing Club though she has personal reasons for getting involved.
A long-time competitive marathon runner (she has run in four Boston Marathons), Dellandrea is also a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed with advanced thyroid cancer in 2004 while she was six months pregnant with her third child. She had immediate surgery to remove the tumour and affected lymph nodes. She underwent treatment after giving birth and required a second surgery eight weeks later.
In 2009, tests revealed that the cancer had returned and she again faced surgery and treatment, but thankfully, the disease has been in remission ever since. For Dellandrea, exercise has always been a huge part of her life.
She’s a competitive athlete to the core and working out provides a way to relieve the stress of every day life, particularly when dealing with child exploitation cases as a Crown counsel.
“Whether it’s pounding the pavement for hours doing marathon training or coming here and getting my ass kicked around the boxing ring, I enter my own head and I’m still in my own mental space for the period of time that I’m training and it’s a nice reprieve from the sometimes difficult issues that I need to preoccupy myself with (at work),” she said.
Though she has been training at the Kingsway for months, the North Bay native sparred for the first time last week, calling it “one of the most humbling experiences of my life.
“I say humbling as opposed to humiliating because I recognize that there’s no shame in learning something and being on the ground floor and recognizing your weaknesses,” she said. “It’s a very unique experience, unlike anything I felt in all levels of competitive sport. It is uniquely exhausting, physically exhausting and mentally exhausting in a way I hadn’t anticipated.”
Dellandrea laughed when asked about the most difficult aspects of becoming a boxer.
“My teammates are forever reminding me that’s it OK to aim for their head,” she said. “It’s something I’ve yet to fully come to terms with. But I’m definitely progressing to acceptance of all the features of this great sport.”