Friday, June 26, 2009
Cancer, like any threat to one’s survival, can really mind-screw you. When you’re diagnosed, you might find yourself thinking that life after treatment will never be as sweet as it could be, or that there will be things in your life that are suddenly unreachable or unimaginable, just because you’ve had cancer.
I’m here to tell you, that is simply not true.
When I was 27 years old, I did my first triathlon and first marathon in the same year. All my friends were turning 30, bemoaning the end of their 20s, and, what they thought, were the “best years” of their lives. Looking ahead to my own 30th birthday, I decided I wasn’t going to hit 30 like that. I decided to do 28 more athletic events over the next two years, committing to “30-by-30”. I finished 7 triathlons, 3 bike rides, numerous 5Ks and 10Ks, and 3 Providian Relays. My 30th birthday ROCKED, because I was celebrating life every minute up to it!
One of the the lowest points in my battle with cancer was when I Googled “5-year Survival Rates for Stage 3 Breast Cancer.” The number came back: 67%. I have a 67% chance of being alive by my 40th birthday, I thought to myself.
With one number, cancer tried to take my hope for the future away. With another, I’m trying to take it back. That number? 40. How many women do you know who are looking forward to their 40th birthday? Count me among them.
For most breast cancer survivors, if you can make it to the 5-year survival mark, your long-term survival odds increase significantly. So I’m going to make these next 5 years count with another goal: 40-by-40. Part “bucket list,” part personal challenge (and, part Fear Factor), my 40-by-40 is a celebration of who I am, what drives me, and what I have to live for.
I’m not going to let cancer take away my hope for the future.
Are you with me?
Here’s the list:
1. Do a Susan G. Komen Walk
2. Do an Avon Walk
3. Do the Mt. Tam Peak Hike
4. Run the NYC Marathon
5. Do the Napa Tri with Kristy Seltzer
6. Do an Olympic triathlon with Misha McPherson
7. Run the Disney Princess Half Marathon at WDW
8. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro
9. Innertube the Russian River
10. Take a Road Trip across the USA
11. Go Skydiving with Ian Fuller
12. See an Oprah show with Loren Madden
13. Go on a Chocolate Tour of Paris with Anne Barrow
14. Go to Graceland on my birthday (I have Elvis’ birthday)
15. Swim with my friend Ian’s dolphins (he is a dolphin trainer)
16. Go to an Oktoberfest Celebration
17. Bring my goddaughter out to where I live for a visit
18. Learn how to figure skate
19. Kayak a river with First Descents
20. Go to a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater
21. Build a Rube Goldberg machine
22. Rock-climb in Moab, Utah
23. Visit 20 breweries in Colorado
24. Ski in Vail with my sister
25. Live in Boulder, Colorado
26. Have a job where I can ride my bike to work
27. Have my own place again
28. Go all out for Halloween
29. Sell my house in Kaua’i
30. Go back to Kaua’i to empty out my storage unit
31. Perfect my chocolate chip cookie recipe
32. Reconnect with Katie Birkholz
33. Play on a community sports team
34. Host a monthly movie night with a theme
35. Have an amazing 40th birthday party
36. Make it to 5 years cancer-free
37. Go to Tamika Felder’s wedding
38. Speak at a survivor conference
39. Get a great job with awesome benefits
40. Write & publish a book