Why Even Tri?

Barb’s Race, which is a half-Ironman distance triathlon for women only isn’t just about getting beyond your own limits as an athlete to complete the course, it is also about honoring Barb and all the other women who have been diagnosed with, fought, beaten or have been beaten by cancer. (Go here for more information on Barb’s Race.)

Up until several years ago, cancer was something that happened to other people. I participated in Race for a Cure and the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk, and donated to the American Cancer Society, but I did it out of support for all the other families affected by cancer, not because my life was touched by this ugly disease. Well, that all changed when my stepmother was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

When she was diagnosed, she was basically told that people don’t survive stomach cancer, but she did. She beat it and was doing well. Then it came back, and got the best of her…literally.

July 1st was the one year anniversary of our friend’s death after losing her battle with breast cancer. When it came back, it came back in her bones…you can’t remove cancer from your bones. Throughout her second battle with cancer, I watched from afar as Kathy continued to care for the people around her, making sure they were happy and taken care of.  She displayed nothing but strength and courage, grace, love, gratitude and an unending appreciation for the life she had and the family and friends who surrounded her.

In May of this year, my Gran passed away. She went into the hospital for heart valve surgery, and when they did the x-ray to make sure everything was OK they found out she had ovarian cancer. She may have lost her strawberry blond hair, but through it all she never lost her laughter or her ability to “control” her children and grandchildren. I remember one day while visiting her she had me rearranging her drinking glasses in just this certain way. I thought it was silly, but it brought her a sense of having some control when losing control.

I wouldn’t call my Gran a control freak…OK, I would. But, she was an independent woman who took care of my grandpa for years after he became sick – not only caring for him, but for the entire family. She liked things how she liked them. Hell, I am only 35 and am pretty set in how I like things, imagine that at 89! I don’t really know what took my Gran’s life – was it the cancer or her heart? It doesn’t matter, because what matters is that she laughed and loved up until the end.

A few years ago one of my good friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she told me, I simply couldn’t believe it. It didn’t make sense. She was healthy! But, apparently cancer doesn’t care about healthy people – there is no distinguishing criterion sometimes. It was hard because my friend lives across the country. We talked on the phone and checked in. Not that I ever doubted her strength, but in those days my friend displayed such a great amount of strength that simply increased my love and admiration for her.  My friend beat her cancer, and is currently still cancer free.

I have yet another friend – 30 years old. Breast cancer. Double mastectomy. Lymph nodes removed. I don’t see this friend…she lives in Ohio. We talk via the Internet. Through the words on the screen I can feel the determination to kick cancer’s ass. She has armed herself with knowledge about her disease, and takes that knowledge and uses it to fortify her resolve. I have no doubt she will beat this disease because that is just how she is. Sadly, while her treatment begins, so does it for her youngest son.

Her youngest son was just diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. (Yep. The hits just keep on coming.) As she tells about her son, I see that he is going to have the same determination she has. I have no doubt that both of them will go through their treatments to lead wonderfully long lives.

So, cancer is no longer just a disease that happens to other people. It happens to neighbors, friends, family, coworkers…it is indiscriminant. It doesn’t care who you are or what you do. It doesn’t care if you have lived a long or short life.

Finding a cure is of the utmost importance. Barb’s Race is a fundraiser for cancer research. If you would like to donate, please go here.

As I am swimming my 1.2 miles, riding my 56 miles and running 13.1 miles, I will not only think about how tired I am, but also all of the people who are currently battling cancer, have beat cancer and who have lost their lives to cancer. When I am tired, I will think of the difficult treatments they have faced, or will face. When I am tired, I will gain strength from those people who don’t have a choice to quit when they are tired.

Why am I tri’ing? I am tri’ing to honor lives and memories of people I love…really for everyone.

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