Michael Walsh is a Philadelphian, small business owner and cyclist who hates cancer. He will be riding with Team I Hate Cancer in the Team LIVESTRONG Challenge, which takes place Aug. 18-19 in Blue Bell. www.TeamLIVESTRONG.org.
“I hate cancer.” Go ahead; say it. It’s cathartic and undeniably true. Hating cancer is now one of life’s truths. The earth is round. Each day is only 24 hours long. I hate cancer. We hear about cancer every day and every day this disease makes me angry.
I haven’t always hated cancer. As a kid, no one told me about the disease. “Your grandmother is in the hospital again.” She was a two-time breast cancer survivor. “We need to visit your grandfather; he’s home this weekend.” He would lose his second battle with colon cancer. My parents never sat me down to explain the myriad ways cancer can ravage a body, a life and a family. But something changed. Was it simply the onset of adulthood or just the reality of the world in which we live? When I finally asked why my grandparents died, “cancer” was the answer.
Shortly after losing a college friend in his early twenties to a brain tumor, my hatred became uncontrollable. In 2006, I signed up for my first Team LIVESTRONG Challenge in Philadelphia. New to cycling, I completed the challenging 70 mile ride physically drained, yet equally inspired. My fellow runners and riders shared a common voice and disdain for this deadly disease. I met scores of people who were creating meaningful impact through their time, spirit and generosity. That first Philadelphia LIVESTRONG Challenge raised more than $1 million for cancer survivorship programs and sparked an incessant fire within me.
If you don’t know, the Lance Armstrong Foundation serves people affected by cancer and empowers communities to support the 1.6 million Americans diagnosed with cancer every year. Here in Philadelphia, $1.5 million in Foundation funding created the Living Well After Cancer Program, a collaboration between CHOP and the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn. The program monitors survivors for recurrence, offers medical and personal counseling, and assists with maintaining post-treatment well-being. The Lance Armstrong Foundation supports programs like these in communities nationwide.
“Cancer” is not only a word or a disease, but a story that touches everyone at some point and it spans age, race, class and gender. Cancer literally effects everyone. It’s the reason that hating cancer has become a universal truth for us all. Hate is a strong word and a damaging emotion, but when redirected towards something positive, it has the potential to move mountains. This weekend, my brother and I will participate in our seventh Team LIVESTRONG Challenge, having raised more than $140,000 for the Foundation since 2006, including more than $40,000 this year alone. Along the way, we’ve met a cancer-hating army of like-minded individuals bent on making a difference. We’ve made life-long friends who we see only once a year, but who feel like family. We hate cancer, and we no longer do it alone. I hope you’ll come join us. Go ahead, say it out loud, we’ll be right there with you, “I hate cancer.”