Delilah Topic never intended to move from centre-of-the-universe Toronto.
“Even when I found out about the job in Kelowna and came out for the interview, I didn’t think I’d take it if offered it,” said Topic, 36, who is a medical oncologist at the B.C. Cancer Agency in Kelowna. “But the weather was glorious for the interview weekend mid-March in Kelowna in 2012, and the final interview was done over dinner at Quails’ Gate Winery with the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen.
“So when I got back to Toronto and my cramped apartment, I decided I have to go to Kelowna.”
Fast forward four years, and Topic is settled in Kelowna with a rewarding career and success on the competitive running circuit.
“I really have two overriding passions in my life,” she said. “My job as a cancer doctor comes first and my training and running comes second.”
One might think being a cancer doctor would be the most depressing job on earth.
“I know the last thing you want to hear when you go to the doctor is: You have cancer,” she admitted. “But I went into the prescription of chemotherapy therapy because it is a very rewarding area of medicine. I have the opportunity to make an awful experience for patients a little better. I can give them hope, help them through the fear and make a plan to beat cancer and move forward.”
Of course, not everyone wins their battle with cancer.
“I have patients I get close to die and it’s very sad,” she said. “That's why I need running to clear my head.”
Topic calls running her part-time job because it involves lots of training and using up most of her vacation time travelling to competitions.
“I take if very seriously,” she said. “And I love it for the fun, the stress relief and the competition.”
The two highlights of her running career have been a bronze medal in the 10-kilometre race at the World Master Games in Italy in 2013 and 16th place in the 1,500 metre at the 2015 World Master track and field championships in France.
“Both placements were pleasant shocks,” she said. “I didn't expect to medal in Italy and I went into the race in France with a heel injury and didn’t find out until after I actually had two broken bones in my foot.”
As another example of her dedication, Topic does one of her many training runs a week on Wednesday mornings at 4:30 a.m. with Kelowna lawyer and fellow competitive runner Christy Lovig, who was profiled as a Top Forty Under 40 nominee in this newspaper in December.
“I know. People think we’re crazy,” she said. “But we’re both busy and competitive and that time works for us to get a long run in and catch up with each other. I also go to bed before 9 p.m. the night before.”
Topic manages to do all this, and do it well, while fighting Type 1 diabetes since the age of 14. She doesn't see the disease as a limitation, but as a challenge to overcome to live her best possible life. She controls her diabetes with healthy living and eating and a positive attitude.
Kelowna-based SoLo GI Energy Bars is now Topic’s athletic sponsor.
“For someone with Type 1 diabetes, I don’t have a lot of fun food choices,” she said. “SoLo bars taste like dessert, but are low-glycemic and give me energy, help with recovery and help me keep my blood sugar in check.”
Going forward, Topic says she has several goals.
She wants to keep healthy and continue running and clock personal best times in the 1,500 and 5,000 metre races at the upcoming World Master track and field championships in Australia.
Continuing to help patients and build her medical oncology practice at Kelowna’s cancer clinic is also a priority.
She also wants to teach more, expanding on the nutrition, growth and development class she teaches to undergraduate medical students of UBC Okanagan.