Living Strong

“It’s one thing to survive, and another to live. Never stop.” – Lance Armstrong

Today I am doing something that I haven’t done for about 5 years…running a race for charity. The Livestrong Challenge in San Jose. It is about 6:45am and I am waiting at bag check for some buddies from Silicon Valley Moms and then we are off to Live Strong. Wish I was biking the 100 miles, but my bike skills are a bit rusty! We’ll be running the 5K and that will be just fine living for today.

Oh, and this is my first post from my new iPhone (love it!). I have a feeling I’ll be blogging more due to this bit of technology…

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I send a text to Ana and Courtney about 6:50 am to let them know that I am standing by bag check and next to a sign that says “Starbucks –>” (tempting…). Ana originally organized us Silicon Valley Moms as a team and here we are. I see a cute girl who has a “I’m a Survivor – 11 YEARS!” and I ask her where she got it. She points and I head that direction, feeling a bit lame because I was leaving where I had just texted Ana and Courtney telling them where I was. I quickly get my Survivor tag, write “For 7 Years!” on it, head back and see the cute girl standing by the Starbucks sign. She has her phone in her hand and says “Are you Linsey?” Ha! It is Courtney, turns out. (We have not met before…such is the blogosphere at times). We talk about our respective cancer experiences, blogging, coffee drinking habits, our kids. Ana soon arrives – apparently she had slept in a bit (the one who organizes get to be late).

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Fast forward to 7:30am – We wander over to the start line for the start. Yellow balloons everywhere. Many survivor tags on bikers and runners. I see one that says “15 months…” As in, and counting and hoping and holding. Many “In memory of” and “In honor of” tags. We suddenly hear Lance’s name. Huh? We look over and see Lance himself about to take off. I have watched many a Tour de France with Lance climbing those hills and gripping those handlebars, but to be 5 feet away from him is pretty amazing. I didn’t even know he was going to be there, so it is a nice surprise. He’s right – it’s not about the bike. But still.

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We watch the bikers start – the 100 mile and 10 mile riders. Many kids are out there for the 10 mile ride. How cool is that? I can’t wait to start taking my kids to races (not in a jogging stroller!). How exciting for a kid. And probably really tough.

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7:45am and the 5K runners and walkers are off. We are accompanied by cancer patients survivors being pulled in wagons by bikers, cheering and waving and inspiring. The wagons are decorated with all kinds of yellow signs and banners. Ana, Courtney and I are all different paces, so we split up. Along the course I think a lot about people currently going through treatment for cancer, those recently diagnosed, recently in remission and surviving. I remember sadly two of my friends who have passed away from terrible lung cancer just in the past year – both were new mothers, Beth lived 2 months, Sarah lived 9 months. I thought of all the great women that I am getting to know on this new Mothers With Cancer blog I am a part of. Being a lymphoma survivor, I have done many races (marathons, bike races, triathlons) with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training in the past, so am quite familiar with the waves of emotion that tend to hit me as I plod along a race course. It can be tough. Not as tough as cancer treatment, that’s for sure. But today feels really good as well. I am not sure exactly why, but it is somehow different than my previous races. I feel very proud to be wearing that “Survivor” tag and to see all the other survivors around me. Instead of feeling like a poster child for pity, I feel incredibly empowered. I am thankful that I am one of the lucky ones that get to live, to enjoy my children and a very full life. Post-cancer, I try to live my life not for the small minute details, but the big picture of the relationships I have. Carpe diem indeed.

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8:18am – Those 3 weeks off from boot camp are showing a bit and I really have to push it toward the end a bit. I see the overhead balloons for the finish line and a sign that says “Cancer Survivors go to the right.” I head to the right and receive a lovely yellow rose. I love flowers! How nice. My finish time is about 30 minutes, I think. About right for a race pace for me, so I’m pleased. I see Ana just in front of me. We go through the “showers” – ahhh, that feels good in the heat. We talk about Ana’s friends whose daughter has just been diagnosed with AML. Courtney soon follows and we tour the post-race festivities, grab some food, water, coffee. We part ways to go home to our respective families and the Sunday activities. Later, I hear from Ana that she ended up staying until Lance finished his 65 mile ride (only 65 miles?!) – she caught this cute photo of his butt. Actually a quite familiar sight to Lance’s competitors, I am sure.

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I really liked this race from a survivor perspective. I like that it includes all cancers. I like that it really and truly celebrates survivors. I like that it remembers those who have passed and who survived when they were living. I encourage survivors, patients and their supporters to, in the words of the Livestrong Foundation, “pick a fight.” This one is important.

Crossposted at Me Too You.

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5 Responses to Living Strong

  1. Jill Aldrich says:

    This is terrific! How very cool of you to participate in the race, and how totally cool to share the experience with us in real time on your iPhone! I loved this. Thank you!

  2. Sarah S. says:

    How wonderful and inspiring! It sounds like a great experience. I can’t wait to be able to do this too.

  3. Michele T says:

    you wrote ” Instead of feeling like a poster child for pity, I feel incredibly empowered.”

    I did the Livestrong Challenge 5k last summer (walking though, not running) with my DH and then 10 year old daughter and this is *exactly* how I felt. It was an incredible experience being with all those people and being treated with such respect. I really enjoyed reading your post and reliving a bit of my experience last year in reading yours.

  4. imstell says:

    I want that feeling! I pledge to do some sort of cancer run/walk in the next year! You can all be my witnesses. Can I get more than one sign? I need a Survivor on and an In Memory Of …

  5. cancervisa says:

    seriously insane with envy, but loved living vicariously through your story! Thanks!
    ps. want to be geeky and ask more about your iPhone! hats of to the techno guru.

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