When a neighbor heard the news that Suzanne Link had been accepted into our Nepal program, she frowned.
“She tried to shame me,” says Suzanne. “She said, ‘you know Susan, you live every day like it’s your last day.”
“I just looked at her and said thank you!”
“And I’m thinking to myself, ‘absolutely…absolutely… let’s git ‘er done!’ Just wake up, because this is the only life I get and it’s not going to be a Greek tragedy!”
Suzanne was born in 1964 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama – home to the University of Alabama, and a place where, according to Suzanne, “football is sacred and the Southern Baptist church doesn’t take questions.” She was raised by “country kids who were from country kids who were from country kids,” and fears that her “gauge as to what is scary or risky may have been miss-set in childhood.”
She learned to water ski before she could walk and started cliff diving soon after. As a teenager, she jumped motorcycles with her brother, and rode on the tailgate of her grandfather’s truck as he barreled down two-lane country roads at 55 mph.
“No one was afraid or even apprehensive. No one ever told us we should be.” She says.
Despite so many fond memories, Suzanne concedes that there were parts of her childhood that were very difficult and which resulted in some psychological scars. In her twenties, she engaged the services of a psychologist who helped her come to terms with aspects of her childhood. The experience was so positive that Suzanne decided to withdraw from her MBA program and pursue an MA in counseling in Pennsylvania. Today, Suzanne runs her own counseling practice in an upscale neighborhood in Charlotte, where she strictly enforces a rule of “no whining” while encouraging patients to focus on solutions.
On the trail, Suzanne quotes Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking as easily as Larry the Cable Guy, and you don’t have to know her long to discover her extraordinary positivity.
Last year Suzanne was invited to speak about her life as a cancer survivor at a conference at Duke University Hospital. During the opening monologue, she encouraged her audience to keep perspective in times of adversity, just as she had done during her cancer treatment.
“All I had to do was look to the left or the right, and there was always someone with a bigger hole in their boat than me,” Suzanne shared.
Although to be fair, if you were really sitting in Suzanne’s boat, you would have to have pretty good eyes to find a boat with a bigger hole. Suzanne was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2009. After her diagnosis, she had four tumors removed, received six rounds of Chemo, and 33 radiation treatments. One of the last surgeries resulted in a serious infection and then a blood clot.
“I had both ticks and fleas!” Says Suzanne. “After I got through all that, I wanted to dance like a mo-fo every day – every minute.”
“I was made a better person for what I went through,” she says. “I don’t wish for anyone to go through cancer, but I do wish for people to have this higher level of appreciation.”
“Before cancer it was always about the future or the past. That’s the thing that cancer changed and that’s the thing that this trip has reaffirmed.”
“Never take a day for granted. We aren’t guaranteed another one.”