The following is by Lauren Spiker, founder and Executive Director of Melissa’s Living Legacy Teen Cancer Foundation. She tells the story of Mary Eggers, a LIVESTRONG and Melissa’s Living Legacy Teen Cancer Foundation supporter and grassroots fundraiser with a lot of guts and passion for the fight against cancer. Have an idea for a great fundraising event for LIVESTRONG and want to engage your community? Register your event with us and become an official grassroots fundraiser. Visit our website for more information.
What? Someone challenged Lance Armstrong? To a kickboard race? Yes, and it all started as a joke. “Gee, wouldn’t it be funny if…”
Two days and many tweets later, Mary Eggers and Lance Armstrong agreed to go toe-to-toe in a 50-meter race – using only a kickboard – as a fund-raiser for our Teens Living with Cancer program and LIVESTRONG. “Once word got out and others joined in on Twitter, it just took off,” says Mary. “I never expected him to actually take me up on my challenge.”
But let’s back up….
It all started with a more poignant challenge. A challenge issued by a 19 year-old girl just days before she died. “If you’ve learned anything from me through all of this, do something with it to make a difference – to make things better.”
The teenager was my daughter. And I was the one being challenged. “What can I do,” I remember thinking. Cancer was taking my sweet girl’s life and all I could do was helplessly stand by. I needed to make a choice right then, in that minute. It was her last request and she deserved an answer. A part of me shouted, “No, it’s too hard. I’ve already had my share of challenges.”
But I made a different choice. I made a commitment to my daughter that dark, quiet night and the result was Melissa’s Living Legacy Teen Cancer Foundation. Twelve years later, it led to another challenge even Melissa couldn’t have imagined.
This time the challenge was issued by another mom, a much younger mom not much older than Melissa would be had she survived. Unlike me, this mom is a registered nurse. She’s also an elite athlete and coach who has qualified for the Hawaii Ironman three times. She’s had her share of disappointments. She’s known heartache; she’s weathered her own storms. She’s one of the most competitive yet generous people I know. Her name is Mary Eggers.
An unlikely alliance, some have said. Despite the differences, Mary and I share a bond. Cancer has taken too much from those we love. A common mission drives us and neither of us is very patient. Much more needs to be done. Each, in our own way, is using what strengths and talents we’ve been given to do what Melissa asked of me before she died: “to make a difference – to make things better.”
My commitment is to teens with cancer. Teens, who like Melissa, face their challenge with extraordinary courage. Teens who wake up each day and make the choice to be stronger than any chemotherapy, bolder than a poor prognosis, and more focused than laser rays of radiation. Melissa’s Living Legacy is my way of keeping the promise I made to my daughter.
Our Teens Living with Cancer (TLC) program provides resources and support to teens around the globe helping them make the choice to live with cancer. Resources that give them a voice, a strong voice. Support that connects them with other teens who understand and with whom they can just be “normal” teens. At TLC, cancer is the common denominator. We all get it. No explanations are necessary. Hugs are plentiful and having fun is the norm. Sometimes we laugh until we cry and all too often, we cry for those whose laughter we miss.
So, what about this Duel in the Pool, you’re probably asking? That’s where Mary comes in. She is the coach for TLC Fit, our fitness program designed specifically for teen survivors. Over eight weeks, Mary has skillfully guided our teens to much more than improved physical fitness. With sensitivity and humor, Mary has helped our teens develop greater self-esteem and confidence. She has seen their unique challenges and is committed to helping us press on. She has watched us stretch every dollar of our limited budget, even using milk jugs filled with water as weights during our TLC Fit workouts! That’s all we can afford.
It was after TLC Fit one night that Mary concocted the idea of challenging Lance Armstrong. “That would draw attention to what we’re doing here,” she said. Little did she know!
And that’s the rest of the story. A story with interwoven themes – cancer, challenge, choice, commitment. It’s about Lance Armstrong, Mary Eggers, and the thousands of teens this event will support. It’s about champions who run the race regardless of who wins. And it all started with a girl named Melissa who challenged us all to “make a difference – to make things better.”
Please watch this short video and then ask yourself: Will I accept the challenge? Can I make a choice and commit to making a difference for teens with cancer? I hope your answer is “yes.”
For more information about “Duel in the Pool” and how you can donate, please go to: www.teenslivingwithcancer.org/duel-in-the-pool
Phone: (585) 563-6221