I was asked to be one of the Speakers at the Relay For Life of the Lower Fox Valley. My speech was at midnight for the Fight Back Ceremony. If you know anything about Relay you know that it is an over night event to raise funds for Cancer Research and programs through the American Cancer Society. It is held from 6pm till 6am because, “cancer never sleeps”.
I was honored to be asked and my pleasure to say yes. Here is the speech I wrote and and presented last night.
What does it mean to Fight Back? When I was asked two years ago what I would do to fight back, I had no idea what that meant. How was I suppose to Fight Back against cancer. It was guiding the way wasn’t it? What could I do? I felt cancer was holding one of my arms behind my back while I cried, UNCLE, UNCLE!!! It was about what I thought I couldn’t do.
The sense of helplessness from that Fight Back Ceremony stayed with me till the end of that year. I kept thinking about it and WHAT could I do, into the following freezing January, but by February an idea hit me. I can’t remember the exact minute that it finally hit home but I feel the results of that moment right here, right now. I knew I had the power to fight back that day and every day that I wake up in the morning. I started by joining a fitness center, walking then running on the treadmill. I got my daughter to join with me because I wished for her not to face a diagnosis like I did. The weather finally turned warm and we headed outside, her running and me doing quite a bit of walking and huffing and puffing. My goal, which became our goal, was to compete in the Father’s Day 5K race that was to be held in our town. There were days, while I was out there trying to run, with my lungs screaming at me and each step a struggle, I questioned myself constantly. My mind would race back and forth between “what the hell am I doing, to COME ON just put one foot in front of the other, one more time or till I reach the next mailbox. Then I can walk a little”.
I knew this was not an easy quest I had before me. Almost 49 years old at the time and had NEVER been a runner. I could barely run to the mailbox without heaving and now I thought I could run not just 3 miles, but 3.1 to be exact. There was one particular work out day where I reached my breaking point. I felt like a worn out old dish rag that someone had cast to the laundry room floor. I cried and boy did I feel sorry for myself, but after about a half hour of my little pity party. I started to ask myself what the problem was. I should be proud of what I had accomplished. Wasn’t this better than being balled up in the fetal position on my couch when I was going through my Chemo and radiation treatments. I was out running ¼ mile, then a ½ mile, and then 3 miles. When before I was just trying to make it to the bathroom to throw up.
It wasn’t about winning the race, it was about coming across the finish line, completing the race and not giving up. If that meant running, walking or even crawling what did it matter? The fact was I was far more fit than I had ever been in my entire life, let alone when I was dangerously close to dying from one minute to the next in the emergency room after my first week of treatment. It wasn’t about the win, it was about the fight. The FIGHT, of course. I was fighting back! Not only was I doing something for me physically but more importantly it was for my mental well being. I was empowered and positive and I was taking back my life from the day to day uncertainty of cancer in my life. See I can do it!
When I reached the finish line my daughter was there watching for me, she ran her own race and I was proud of her too. We celebrated by talking about the NEXT one. Well I had some setbacks that summer with some additional surgery and that was the only race we got in, BUT this year we started all over again. You see fighting back is your own battle, it’s about never giving up, you might have a break or set back here or there, you might have to change up the game plan, but the fight always remains in the back of your mind, once it’s there. So this year my daughter and I went a little farther and competed in a 4 mile run/walk through the woods. It was extremely challenging, but I never gave up, I never lost HOPE of the finish line and once again there was my daughter waiting for me at the finish as I knew she would be.
Fighting back can be so many things to so many people but this is my story. I am almost 6 years cancer free from Stage IV Tonsil Cancer. And today I fight back with attitude, which in turn has given me power for myself that cancer once held tight. What will you do to fight back? Will you battle for yourself or will you answer the call to save another? It’s your choice, your fight.