The following is a Team LIVESTRONG story from Challenge participant and Team Captain for Team Lama, Andrew Zastrow. Join Andrew at the LIVESTRONG Challenge in Philly this month! Can?t make it to Philly? There are many events you can take part in with Team LIVESTRONG. Go to www.teamlivestrong.org to learn more about our run, walk, ride and tri events.
What is your name and where are you from?
Gunga Galunga. I am Andrew Zastrow and the Captain for Team Lama or self appointed Head Lama. I have been in transition lately and have nine days of being a New York City resident under my belt. Previously, I had been residing in Philadelphia, PA, for six and half years. Although, one cannot forget their roots and home is a small town in Keokuk, Iowa along the Mississippi River where my parents continue to reside.
How have you been affected by cancer?
I think my connection with cancer started out similar to most people. It was around me but not hitting my inner circle of family and friends. Then it snuck up and took my grandmother in a quick fashion, but I could justify it. Then my uncle lost his 15-year battle with this awful disease. My aunt found breast cancer. Other family members started having little bits and dashes and then finally my father was diagnosed with a rapidly spreading stage IV cancer that left only experimental treatments as an option. The good news is my father is with us and while he has stopped treatments, he continues to battle every day. I have survived my own little scare with cancer, so the Zastrow family is on a bit of a win streak now against this disease.
In hindsight, it might have been easier to answer how cancer hasn?t affected me. But through the journey has allowed me to meet many impressive people who have and are fighting. I don?t regret any of these experiences and rely on them daily.
Is this your first LIVESTRONG event?
I have participated in six LIVESTRONG Challenges in Philadelphia, RAGBRAI in 2011 and have the Iron Horse Classic, LIVESTRONG Challenge in Philadelphia and Austin and hopefully RAGBRAI on the calendar for 2012. I have found that pushing myself to my limits help push some donors to test the limits of how wide they open their checkbooks to support our cause.
Have you used LIVESTRONG services?
LIVESTRONG helped me as much as it did my father. Something I should have done earlier than I did was request the LIVESTRONG guidebook and contact the navigation center for us both. We accessed a great amount of information through LIVESTRONG and helped us to make decisions. It also helped me to cope better with the things my father was going through, the experimental treatments, constant request to stick this or that in his body and how this plays on a person.
However, the best LIVESTRONG moments through this entire process happened on RAGBRAI last year. It was 80 riders as a part of our LIVESTRONG team, and each evening we had a team meeting where at least one person would share their connection with cancer. The stories moved me every night. When you start to hear what people have done and won against this terrible disease, it is inspiring. My brain finalized realized this is bigger than just about my family.
I learned a great deal from talking with everyone on that ride and when a young cancer warrior who had lost a leg in his battle, Drew Wall, wanted to ride the last 10 miles into Coralville, IA with us in the 105 degree July heat only days after he received chemo, it hit me right in the stomach. Drew did it as part of his fight against cancer and not let it win without a fight. That moment will forever be in my mind as Drew fought through that ride. It was not easy for him. Yet, he never complained and had 80 riders next to him riding two by two in a sea of black and gold LIVESTRONG cycling jerseys. It is hard not to be inspired when a 14-year-old boy fights that hard. It makes you as a person, realize I have more to do, give and keep fighting.
What does LIVESTRONG mean to you?
Strength. Courage. Honorable. Inspiring.
There are many charities to donate money to that have worthy causes and LIVESTRONG has one of the highest giveback rates of any charity. They do what they say they will do. I like people who do what they say they will. Additionally, the unofficial LIVESTRONG mantra is to keep fighting and FIGHT LIKE HELL and this has helped me get through difficult times in life. It is so similar to another of my favorite quotes by Winston Churchill, ?If you are going through hell, keep going?. LIVESTRONG helps move you forward and that is how life is supposed to be lived, moving forward. Once you realize you are not a single warrior or supporter, but one of millions the impact is impressive.
Name one piece of advice you would give to someone affected by cancer.
Look, I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but the facts are someone close to you is going to be affected in some way shape or form. And as in the movie Caddyshack, when the Dalia Lama hits the ball down to the base of a 10,000 ft glacier, he says, ?Gunga Galunga?. Know that it is going to be an emotional rollercoaster, but when you need it, say Gunga, Galunga and keep fighting.
Having information and knowing what to do with it is a key differentiator. Ask lots of questions, call LIVESTRONG, get a guidebook, find a network of people to talk with and learn from during this time. And don?t forget your caregivers. This is as tough on them as it is the person with cancer and it takes a team to win. A team of medical professionals, of family and friends, cancer survivors and people to learn from and everyone has to be thinking positive and living life forward. And remember, keep fighting and FIGHT LIKE HELL.