How do you celebrate 16 years of remission from breast cancer? For  Chasse Bailey-Dorton, MD, chief of integrative oncology at Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute, it meant swimming, biking and running your way to a total 140.6 miles in one day.

News | 2 months ago

Cancer Surviving Physician Competes in World's Toughest Race

How do you celebrate 16 years of remission from breast cancer? For Chasse Bailey-Dorton, MD, chief of integrative oncology at Atrium Health's Levine Cancer Institute, it meant swimming, biking and running your way to a total of 140.6 miles in one day. Yes, this cancer physician and survivor is also part of a special club reserved for the most elite of athletes - those who have finished an Ironman race.

An Ironman Triathlon is widely known as one of the most difficult races ever conceived. It consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile run (a full marathon) – all in one day. But for Chasse Bailey-Dorton, MD, chief of integrative oncology at  Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute Center for Supportive Care and Survivorship, competing in her first full Ironman Triathlon wasn’t the toughest challenge that she has faced.

New Pathways

Sixteen years ago, Dr. Bailey-Dorton received the difficult news of being diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. “I think – like most patients – I had the shock and fear of what that meant,” says Dr. Bailey-Dorton. She vowed then and there that she would do everything she could in order to fight the disease so that she could resume her life as both a mother and as a provider.    

“After I was diagnosed and was in chemo, I was enrolled in a clinical trial that follows breast cancer and prostate cancer survivors, educating patients about nutrition and exercise,” says Dr. Bailey-Dorton. “As I became more involved, I started adopting more integrative health techniques.”

Integrative medicine is an approach to patient care that couples standard medical treatments with complementary therapies that care for the mind, body and spirit of a patient. As Dr. Bailey-Dorton learned more about the advantages of integrative health, she transitioned from her post as a family medicine practitioner and fully immersed herself into the field of integrative oncology at the Levine Cancer Institute Center for Supportive Care and Survivorship after going through her own rounds surgery, chemo, radiation and hormonal therapy.

Once she completed treatment, Dr. Bailey-Dorton found a cancer survivor’s triathlon network that kickstarted her passion for exercise. On an early morning run one day with her friend and colleague, Kathryn Coiner-Collier, a financial counselor/benefits specialist with Atrium Health, the two came up with the idea to compete in an Ironman competition to commemorate her 16th remission anniversary. After much discussion, the two made an incredible New Year’s resolution as they registered together for the November 2018 Ironman Cozumel in Mexico, just before midnight on New Year’s Eve.

From Bald to Buff 

With the slogan of “From Bald to Buff” guiding their journey, Dr. Bailey-Dorton attacked the race head-on the same way she attacked her cancer. “She had her blinders on, and nothing was going to get in her way,” says Coiner-Collier.

After 16 hours, 33 minutes and 54 seconds, Dr. Bailey-Dorton charged towards the finish line to complete her first full Ironman, grinning from ear-to-ear. “It was so cool to see her finish, I’ll never forget it,” says Coiner-Collier.

Not only were her family and friends tracking her journey, but several of her patients were following along as well. Lynne Holcomb, a pancreatic cancer patient of Dr. Bailey-Dorton’s, used an Ironman app on her phone to check in on Dr. Bailey-Dorton’s progress. It wasn’t until the middle of the night back in the U.S. that Holcomb woke up, checked her phone one last time and saw that Dr. Bailey-Dorton had finished. “I sat there and thought to myself, ‘Way to go girl’,” says Holcomb.

Dr. Bailey-Dorton’s philosophy is that an accomplishment like this is achievable for anybody with the right mentality and the proper training. She wants her patients to know that if she can do it, they can do it.

“I think because I’m a survivor it gives me that instant credibility to give patients the courage to walk through that to regain their health,” says Dr. Bailey Dorton.  


For Integrative Oncology consultations, call 980-442-2500.