I grew up in your normal, everyday middle class household about an hour and a half north of New York City. I had an exemplary older brother, a cherished younger sister, and two loving, hardworking parents. We never had to worry about our next meal or where we were sleeping.
When I was 13, I learned my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. When I was 14, I learned that it was terminal. When I was 15, she passed away. Only when I was 18 did I learn my mother had been fighting the disease since I was 10. Only looking back do I begin to understand the toll the cancer had on my family. There was so much going on behind the scenes that my parents kept from us. To this day, it makes my admiration for her and my father that much greater.
Early in my teen years, I knew my mother went to the doctor, underwent chemotherapy, did radiation, and was constantly being used as a pin cushion for the massive amount of shots and IVs she received. But we had no idea how serious the situation was, partly because we were not informed, but also partly because we just were not mature enough to understand.
I just didn’t understand how sick my mother felt when she would work all day, then give us a lift to soccer practice. I had no idea that the real reason she would watch from the car was because being in the sun made her feel nauseous. I was clueless as to the reason why she would spend all day in bed listening to Andrea Bocelli’s “Con te Partiro” and not being able to eat. I knew she was sick, but to a 13 year old it ended there.
When I was 14 I went from being an immature adolescent to a mature young adult. I had to. We all had to. Could an immature adolescent carry their mother from her bed to the car to be driven immediately to the hospital? Never. Could an immature adolescent bare to look at their mother – the very one who cared for them and consoled them, gave advice, and scolded them – and see her with no hair, green-tinted skin, surrounded by IV’s and heart-machines? Not a chance. I’ll never forget leaving the hospital that day. That was the day I said goodbye to my mother. It was the day it hit me that I would never see her again.
After my mother’s passing, my father held us together. Life was not easy. We did not always know where we were sleeping or where we were eating, but my father, brother, sister and I banded together and managed.
On October 1, I found myself faced with a challenge from a co-worker: To run an Ironman triathlon that was happening in three weeks with no training (other than just being physically fit). I have always been very athletic. I actually ran the New York City Marathon and raised $11,000 for the Greater New York City Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. So, I accepted his challenge, and decided that not only would I win this bet, but I was going to raise money for Komen for the Cure!
To raise the money, I made a bet with other people: for every minute I finish under 16 hours, they have to put up $1 (all of which would be donated to Komen Greater NYC). By the time all was said and done and it was time for the triathlon, I had raised $300,000! Each dollar we raised has the potential to do many things to help others. I am extremely grateful for everything in my life, and I have learned how important it is to appreciate what you have. I am writing this because it is our responsibility to help others if we can, and if we can, we must.
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