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The edge of glory

January 26, 2012

Last night was not easy. It was hard. There were tears.I knew there was going to be.

Our Teens Living With Cancer Fitness Program kicked off on my birthday of all days. And what better way to finish a wonderful birthday. Now… because we are a research study and for other obvious reasons (HIPPA…. just plain privacy…… etc) reasons when I talk about these kids I may refer to them as kids or participants. So that’s why I am about to be vague.

Night one began with assessments by the research students from the  U of R. They brought over all of their stuff and measured flexibility, strength, body composition. The participants also had some endurance tests to complete and one of those tests was a timed mile, either walked or ran. (run?)

One of the participants has a below the knee amputation. I might want to emphasize that the participants are between the ages of 13-22. So think…. teenager. The amputation didn’t occur that long ago. Something this teenager was once able to do……. now they can not. This teen made it a half mile. I knew when the mile began and others were running. I saw the look in their eyes. I knew there were two things I could do. Step back or step in.

Sometimes teenagers need space so I gave it. I know they are along for the ride and I know this was the worst night for them in a while.

How would you feel? Now go back to high school. How would you feel if you lost your leg your junior or senior year? It’s hard enough being a teen. Add that.

When I watched that happen, it reinforced what I am doing here. What Lauren,Katie, Leah, Andy and I are doing here. This is the reason. We knew they would come into this program on day one and feel like they were thrown under the bus. Here is how unfit you are. Here is how much you weigh. Here is how flexible you are and here is how strong you are not. Whatever the results were. Everyone else can make a mile and you can’t.

That’s a heavy load.

There are two things we can do with it. Avoid it. Or face it.

We avoid it by quitting, not going back, not getting on the scale, looking away, ignoring it.

We face it by not being satisfied, and deciding to commit and make a change.

What these teens have gone through is much more than not eating healthy and not exercising. They were going through chemotherapy, surgeries… they were not being lazy. They were defeating Cancer. They came out of it ravaged and weaker than when they went in, and no one taught them how to gain their fitness back.

There were kids who couldn’t do one push up. Couldn’t complete the mile. We are here to change that.
That’s the entire purpose of this study and this program. We caught it early when they could have just gone on about their lives and realized this later. No one taught them how to get their strength back. No one taught the one with the hip replacement how to execute cardio, no one showed the one with the below the knee amputation how to be active again. A year ago this teen had a totally different body. Treatment changed the body, and no one taught this teen how to adapt.

That… is why we are doing this.

I knew coming into these assessments that it was going to be a tricky situation. I knew there were hip replacements, amputations, limitations, and that those would be compared to the more able bodied teens. When you endure Cancer you can have that strong sense of “WHY ME?” , naturally. As a teen…. that’s magnified. All you want to do to begin with is fit in. Now you’ve got a wig, you are sick, and spend years in hospitals. You just want to be “normal”.

So what we have to do with this feeling of disappointment….. is harness it. We knew that fitness had been lost we just didn’t know how much. It’s hard to look at. Now that it was brought to the surface we take it by the balls and we work to change it. We are going to figure it out. We are going to adapt and shift and take their fitness back.

This is the whole reason we began this thing. There is NOTHING for these Teens. NOTHING. The Livestrong program that I keep seeing through the YMCA?????? 18 and up. The mean age is 50. These kids have been left behind.

I always told my Dad I wanted to be a girl who changed the world. I never knew how I was going to do it or what I would even do. He taught me to find something I believe in with my heart and my soul and fight for it with everything I have. Honestly I used to think I would do it through Ironman and triathlon. That is certainly my platform. I have four teammates (Lauren, Leah, Katie and Andy) who believe we can change it too. There is power in numbers.

This is something I believe in with my heart and my soul. This program. Stay tuned, we have 8 weeks left. We will be completing the same tests at four weeks and at the end, and then a few weeks after the program has completed. I have a good feeling about this. A real good feeling.

Those kids will wake up this morning feeling sore and possibly defeated. In a strange way they are going to like the soreness. It’s from work, not from illness. It’s a sign of strength. It’s a sign of life.It’s a sign of moving forward.

It’s their edge of glory.

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2 comments

  1. For the tears streaming down my face this morning…..thank you Mary Eggers for being the incredible human being that you are. Thank you for helping me keep my promise to Melissa – “to make a difference, to make things better.” I’m proud to be on your team!


  2. Mary, you and your teammates are gift to these kids. Kudos to you for using your incredible spirit to heal others needing hope. I wish you all success.



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