I’ve also read some great stories where athletes (some who are just teenagers) are dedicating their Olympic journey to parents or friends who have died from cancer. In the case of swimmer Eric Shanteau, he was actually diagnosed with testicular cancer a week before the 2008 games, received treatment and recently qualified for the 2012 team in the 100m breaststroke. It’s inspiring to say the least and something I can relate to as an athlete who has lost a loved one to cancer, my daughter Alex.
A few years ago I decided to spend less time on the basketball court, my favorite sport, and started running. I had recently suffered a horrible knee injury and my doctors had told me that my life of sports was over. So of course, I had to prove them wrong and didn’t just start running, but I started running marathons. I’ve completed marathons, half-marathons and countless other races all for Team Lemon, ALSF’s athletic program that encourages people to raise money for the Foundation by running, swimming, cycling, walking or just about anything else you want to do…one Team Lemon member once raised funds by hiking! At the moment, I’m actually training for a run through the Grand Canyon with four of my friends in September. It will be tough, but not nearly as difficult as the things kids with cancer have to endure.
When I’m feeling like my legs are going to give out or lose the motivation to keep up
with my training, I often think about what Alex had to endure to simply walk. The day before her first birthday, Alex was paralyzed during surgery to remove a tumor in her abdomen . The doctors told us that it would be doubtful that she would ever walk again, yet by the time she was 2, she was crawling and able to stand with leg braces, and not long after, she was walking on her own. Clearly, I took after her in terms of defying doctor’s predictions/expectations! Thinking back to those days as Liz and I watched our determined 2-year-old learn to walk despite pain and exhaustion, makes me stop my whining and work ever harder.
Similar to the Olympic athletes competing in honor of their loved ones who have died, I run for Alex every day to honor her legacy, but through Team Lemon, I also run for all children battling cancer. The funds we raise go directly toward important childhood cancer research projects looking for better treatments and cures. Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is just one of the many charities who have athletic programs like this, which allow supporters to get fit and fundraise too.
So as you enjoy the opening ceremonies, intense competitions and emotional medal ceremonies sure to come in the next two weeks – think about how athletes of any caliber (you!) can make a difference for kids with cancer. Join us!