Dear cancer survivors:
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for everything you have taught me over the past year.
When I took the job as Executive Director of Above + Beyond Cancer in February I admittedly knew little about cancer treatment, and even less about survivorship. I was very close to my grandmother before she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 20 years ago and passed away seemingly overnight. My dad and step-dad each battled cancer, but their treatments were in Chicago and Atlanta and I was forced to follow their journey from afar in Iowa.
Today I work directly with cancer patients and survivors daily, and without a doubt it has changed my perspective on life. When interacting with survivors and caregivers there are inevitably great days and tough days, and through it all I’ve watched up close as you have worked hard to live each day with passion and purpose.
Living our lives in such a manner is a lesson for us all, and yes, it does take work. I will never forget hiking in the Nagarkot region of Nepal in September near the end of our medical mission trip and one of the members of our group, a cancer survivor, was incredibly ill. When we arrived in Nagarkot she had the option to stay on the bus, but she refused. I stayed back with her and watched as she threw up, leaned against the bus then looked at me as if to say “relax, I’ve dealt with worse,” and continued hiking through the mountains and small villages. We encountered a torrential downpour and leaches (yes, leaches), and yet as we boarded the bus back to Kathmandu we were all soggy but also energized with sense of gratitude for having experienced something many only watch on television.
Over the past year I’ve meditated, cycled, hiked, ran, canoed, raced, painted(!) and socialized with survivors and caregivers with incredible attitudes and a collective sense of adventure, and I could not be more grateful. Living outside my comfort zone has improved my mind, body and spirit in ways that make me feel stronger at 41 than I ever was at 31.
Each morning I try to run (aka “shuffle”) before taking the kids to school, and last month I increased my mileage from three to four miles. This may seem insignificant, but after a decade of limiting my shuffles to three miles or less, I watched you and decided it was time to step up my own game.
Simply put, you are an inspiration. Whether you know it or not, every mountain you climb, finish line you cross or even leach you encounter inspires the rest of us to do more with our own lives. We have big plans for 2016 and I can’t wait to roll the out at our Evening of Inspiration event on January 19th.
Happy holidays to you all, and thank you once again for a terrific 2015!