BENEFITING: American Cancer Society
ORGANIZER: THE IRONMAN FOUNDATION
EVENT: Your Journey Your Cause 2017
I don’t want to hear any more stories about cancer diagnoses. I want to hear about more birthdays. For this reason, I am competing in the Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Over 1.5 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. Despite this astounding statistic, I never thought that cancer would affect my family. In the past two years, our family has dealt with many ups and downs secondary to the disease, and I would like to share our story.
My father is one of the healthiest, most active people I know. He is a physical education teacher and has been an avid runner his entire life. He is the LAST person I thought would be diagnosed with cancer. In the fall of 2015, my father noticed an enlarged lymph node under his neck. For a couple months, he attributed it to irritation from environmental allergens. The lymph node continued to enlarge and prompted him to seek medical attention. He underwent a series of tests and doctor visits and was ultimately diagnosed with cancer. His primary lesion was at the base of his tongue and had metastasized to his lymph node at the time of diagnosis. I will never forget the day I found out, it happened to be on my birthday. Despite being shocked by the news, I was confident that my dad would beat cancer. If he couldn’t, who could?
My dad began radiation and chemotherapy treatments at Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Center in January 2016. He chose to commute to treatment just outside of New York City nearly every day for a 3 month period. Thanks to the help of family and friends, he was able to stay at home every night during his intensive treatment. It was more difficult than I can explain to watch him endure the consequences of radiation and chemotherapy. I think I speak for everyone in our family when I say I wanted to take his pain for him. I hated to see him hurt.
Luckily, my dad’s story is a happy one. Here we are, over one year removed from his last cancer treatment and he is the same active, healthy individual he was before his diagnosis. He has been cancer-free for just over one year and continues to recover and grow in strength each and every day. In fact, we are planning to run a “family marathon” in September, and I’m sure my dad will give me a run for my money out on the race course.
We are so fortunate to have had a positive outcome from such a defeating diagnosis. Unfortunately, more recently, our family has also endured the loss that so many others have experienced secondary to a cancer diagnosis.
My grandfather was a healthy, strong, resilient man. I never considered that he would have to battle such a devastating disease. My grandfather was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 6 years ago. He underwent several operations and months of treatment, and ultimately beat the disease. At the time, I never considered that my grandfather may not survive his illness. After all, he was one of the toughest people I had ever known. We were fortunate enough to have 6 more years with my grandfather after his initial diagnosis. Six years of laughter and unforgettable experiences. In those six years, he attended my college graduation, vacationed with our family in Colorado, shared in the happiness of my wedding day, and celebrated in my graduation from optometry school. He was one of my biggest fans, as he was for all of his grandchildren.
This past fall, my grandfather received the news that his cancer had returned. He was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. He began radiation therapy shortly after his diagnosis, and through it all he never showed how much pain he was truly enduring. In February of this year, his pancreatic cancer returned, and he was given a terminal diagnosis. He fought hard, but ultimately succumbed to the disease on March 12th 2017, surrounded by his family and friends. It has been a tough journey for those he left behind when he passed, and it will continue to be for months and years to come. We know he is watching over us from heaven, and continues to cheer for us in everything we do.
In the past two years, I have celebrated in the triumph of a cancer defeat and have mourned in the loss of a life to the disease. The pain that I will experience during the half Ironman is nothing in comparison to the pain that cancer patients and their families endure each and every day throughout their journey.
I am competing in the Ironman Chattanooga 70.3, on May 21st 2017, to raise money for cancer research. I hope to never witness another loved one’s battle with cancer. I hope to see the day where cancer is no longer a common disease. Please join me in working towards this goal. I will be forever grateful.