Saturday, August 6, 2011

Climb to Conquer Cancer

I was asked to be the guest speaker at an event called, "Climb to Conquer Cancer" which is sponsored by the American Cancer Society and is a 3 mile hike up to Table Rock in Boise. It is similar to Relay for Life in the way that there are teams that fundraise for the American Cancer Society, but on a smaller scale. It is only a 2 year old event, but is growing.

For the week leading up to event, I thought long and hard on what to speak about. I didn't just want to share my cancer story. I wasn't sure if that would be memorable enough. I finally put it together though and since I had trouble uploading the video of my speech (our computer was having problems), I copied and pasted it below...

It was a great event and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be able to share my story and motivate and inspire others to keep fighting and to never give up hope!

Lotoja is like Cancer
Several years ago I participated in a 203 mile cycling race called LOTOJA, which starts in Logan, UT and finishes in Jackson Hole, WY. It is a grueling race that you complete in one day, climbing over 7,000 feet in elevation. It is best not to ride this race ALONE-you need a group to ride with to “draft” in order to conserve energy. When I started the race, I rode with some other female riders who I had trained with. After the first 40 miles these ladies struggled to keep up and I had to make a decision- stay with them and sacrifice my pace, or find a new group to ride with. I chose the latter. I guess that’s the competitive side of me!

Fortunately, I found a group of men that seemed to fit my pace well. We rode the remaining 150 miles or so together, taking turns in the front “pulling” and then riding in the back “drafting”. There were several of us that had moments of “hitting the wall” which is basically when your body begins screaming at you that enough-is-enough, and it’s time to call it quits. It also didn’t help that we were riding against a headwind all day, which made it all the more difficult. It wasn’t until the last 15 miles to the finish line where I felt like I was hitting the wall. My legs were cramping up, my back and rear ached from being in the saddle all day, and even worse, I started feeling dizzy and was seeing “spots”. I wanted to quit.

Before I finish this story, what does this have to do with cancer or why I was asked to speak? Well, I am a Stage 4 cancer survivor!!!

3 ½ years ago I was diagnosed with Stage 1 Melanoma while I was 7 ½ months pregnant with my second child. 2 years later, the cancer came back into my lymph nodes and then 5 months after that, it metastasized to my lungs, landing me a Stage 4 diagnosis and only a 4 % chance of survival in 2 years. It was the most frightening time of my life. Exactly a year ago I started treatment in SF with an oncologist specializing in melanoma. It was a grueling year, but I finished treatment in June of 2011 and I can now say that I am in REMISSION! Am I out of the woods? Not by any means, but this is an important and difficult milestone to get to with Stage 4 Melanoma and I am grateful to be where I am today.

What got me through the past 3 years? My support group, which consisted of my husband, children, parents, extended family, friends, our church, the community, my doctors and nurses, even an acupuncturist and a hypnotherapist, and of course GOD who I give full credit to for my healing. But I am leaving out the most crucial person as my support-and that is ME! I had to believe that I CAN do this, that I have the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength and stamina to overcome a challenge like cancer. As you can see, I was blessed to have such a large support group and I know that not everyone has that. But though big or small, your support group is VITAL to your success in “conquering” cancer.

Now let me conclude my bike race…The last 15 miles of the race when I “hit the wall”, I didn’t know if I could finish. But my “support group” encouraged me, let me ride in the back so I could conserve my energy, and even pushed my saddle up the hills when I didn’t have the strength to do it. What also got me through those challenging last miles was knowing that my husband was waiting for me at the finish line! Miraculously enough, I finished the race in 10 hrs and 30 min. It was a big accomplishment and one that I will always be proud of.

As you can see illustrated from this story, like LOTOJA, you can’t “conquer cancer” ALONE. You can’t be an “island”. You need support. They are critical to having a successful outcome. It is amazing where that support can sometimes come from too-strangers can often rally around you-encourage you, pray for you, help you, and even empathize with you. I know that I wouldn’t be here today, doing as well as I am, without my support or “team”.

I also believe that it is key to have the WILL TO LIVE. Sometimes you have to find it, it’s not right there in front of you. For me, it was easy to find because I am a mom of 2 young boys, whom I couldn’t imagine growing up without their mother. And of course, my husband, who I didn’t want to leave without his wife. Keeping a positive attitude, not surrendering or paying attention to the statistics, being your own best advocate, and not giving up hope are all important to facing cancer head-on and hopefully conquering it.

Like LOTOJA, cancer isn’t a sprint, it’s a race of endurance. One with lots of hills to climb, headwinds at times, and even moments of “hitting the wall”. But I know with a little perseverance we can get through it. We are ALL strong enough to make it. I also think that our victory is sweeter when we have faced these “hills” or obstacles to overcome. We appreciate life more, we don’t take anything for granted, we learn to live in the moment, we try not to “sweat the small stuff”, and we find our inner strength and confidence through these challenges. I am grateful for cancer because it has given me a greater perspective on life and has made me a better person.

To end, I will leave with one of my favorite quotes by Martin Luther King: “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.” There is HOPE for a cure for cancer. And American Cancer Society is helping make that happen. There are people who are beating the odds and are living miracles. We must never give up, we must never surrender, and we must always keep our heads up.


Jules said...

Wow Christina- That is so inspirational! AND I can't believe you did that crazy bike ride. I can see the competitive side in you taking off with the guys! I am so happy to hear you are in remission and I know you are so strong and a fighter. I can only imagine how you feel alone in this battle sometimes but just know we are out there praying for you! You are amazing!! Ive always known that but now other people know that too! LOVE YA GIRL!!! xo

Christina said...


Thank you!!!! I needed to hear that and I have always treasured our frienshipe! Thanks for always supporting and praying for me. I know it helps! XXOO