I'm two weeks away from participating in my 3rd LIVESTRONG challenge in Philadelphia. LIVESTRONG is my cancer community. The community that embraced me when I needed information about how to be a cancer caregiver and how to deal with the the grief cancer too often leaves in its path. After participating in the 2010 challenge I wrote a letter of appreciation to those who donated on my behalf. I'm sharing it here to give you a sense of what this cause means to me.

August 23, 2010

 It is Monday morning after the 2010 LIVESTRONG Challenge weekend in Philadelphia and I am still enveloped in the positive emotions that come along with being part of the supporting and loving community that is the LIVESTRONG team.  Don’t get me wrong, I am surrounded by wonderfully supportive and loving family and friends on a daily basis here in New York City but not everyone understands first-hand what it was like to be a full-time caregiver for a loved one with cancer and to lose the two most important people in my life in back to back years, all because of cancer.  In fact, I pray that you will never experience anything remotely close to this and for this reason I participate in LIVESTRONG.  To raise money for cancer fighters and survivors and to fund research that will one day eradicate cancer so that no one else has to experience loss or suffering at its hands.  


On Saturday morning, I walked my 5K in memory of my parents.  I  was hit by this wave of emotion as I left the starting line because I knew that they were walking alongside me that morning as they do every day. With that motivation I finished my walk in 47 minutes, about the same time as last year despite not training this time around.  In every residential neighborhood I walked through I was met by the cheers and smiles of complete strangers, who arose early in the morning to tell us all that what we were doing was important and does make a difference.  Along the way, I was inspired by the “Survivor” bibs I saw on the backs of many runners and walkers.  These are people that have told cancer they are not going down without a fight, people like my dad who lived more than 2 ½ years defying the 3-6 months his doctors predicted. These survivors are people like my mom who believed a disability just meant you had to find innovative ways to get things done and who was still her amazingly positive self and showed no signs that breast cancer was taking a hold of her lungs until it was too late.  These survivors are reminders to me that no matter how bad things may seem there is always a reason to get up in the morning and fight for life.


And so having met my LIVESTRONG 5K goal the rest of my weekend was focused on sharing time with my Life Fighters teammates and celebrating them at the 20 mile finish line of their ride on Sunday morning.  I was fortunate enough to get to escort one of my favorite survivors to the village that morning, my best friend's mom, Zaida .  Zaida and her family have taken me in as a member of their family and I cannot even begin to express how critical that has been to me during my own healing process. Together, we cheered for the Life Fighters as they completed their races.   


As an added bonus their arrivals were shortly followed by the arrival of the man who begot the LIVESTRONG movement, cyclist Lance Armstrong.  We were so close to him that the zoom on my camera prevented me from getting a full shot of his face.  But that’s okay, a picture wouldn’t be able to capture all that he has done to place cancer in the global spotlight and to keep it on political and medical agendas worldwide.

Thank you to those of you who supported me financially this year.  Together we raised $800, 100% of which will go toward programs and initiatives which work to improve the lives of cancer survivors and their families. 

With Love,
Maribel


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