Team LIVESTRONG is Headed to Chicago


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On October 7th I will be lining up with over 200 other cancer haters representing LIVESTRONG as we kick cancer to the curb through the streets of Chicago. This is a pretty varied group – we come from different parts of the country, have different experience with running…but have all been touched by cancer in some fashion.

I am excited to join Team LIVESTRONG for my third Chicago Marathon, which happens to be my fifth marathon with Team LIVESTRONG (New York and Los Angeles round it out). In addition to marathons, I have participated in pretty much every event offered by Team LIVESTRONG with the exception of the triathlons…hmmmm…perhaps that’s my challenge for a future year??

Last year my year began with the Los Angeles Marathon and ended with the New York Marathon…and in between there were two LIVESTRONG Challenges, the Pittsburgh Half Marathon and Hood to Coast. 6 Team LIVESTRONG events.

What an amazing year of supporting LIVESTRONG, meeting personal goals, building new and strengthening old relationships. How could I ever top that?

Surprisingly enough, I did just that in 2012. I started the year off with the LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon and will end the year with the Chicago Marathon. I thought this was going to be a relatively slow year in comparison to 2012 until a LIVESTRONG staff member recently pointed out to me that once again I will participate in 6 Team LIVESTRONG events. And to top it off, it wasn’t until I was at the top of snow-capped Mt Hood last weekend for the Hood to Coast relay that I realized I had participated in three within one month – RAGBRAI in July (a 471 bike ride across Iowa), the Philly LIVESTRONG Challenge with my 9 year old daughter the weekend of August 18 – 19, and Hood to Coast (a 200 mile running relay in Oregon) on August 24 – 25th.

Whew…a lot of travel and quite a variety of events.

I am often asked why I get involved in so many events. To be honest with you, it is hard NOT to. The energy and sense of community surrounding each event makes it impossible to not want to get involved again and again and again.

A little about me…I am not a cancer survivor however cancer has impacted me my entire life. My mother passed away from cancer when I was 3 years old, leaving my father to raise myself and my 4 siblings alone as a single parent during the 60’s and 70’s. Cancer was a very taboo subject back then and a single parent family was just as taboo. Fast forward 30 years and my oldest sister – whom fulfilled a mother-like role and was one of my best friends – past away from a brief battle with lung cancer (by the way, she was not a smoker). Suddenly her two children were being raised by her husband, a single parent, just as she had been. Soon afterwards my father was diagnosed with cancer and after a two year battle with colon and prostate cancer, he passed away.

As if that wasn’t enough, the following year cancer kicked me in the gut again by stealing the love of my life, my spouse, after a very brief 2 week battle – and stealing the father of our children – ages 9, 6 and 364 days old – from a lifetime of memories. Suddenly I was reliving the life I was raised in. Brian passed away the day before our daughter’s first birthday and just days after she took her first steps – something he never had the opportunity to witness.

My involvement with LIVESTRONG began simply as a way to turn my running into a method to honor Brian. It just made sense at the time as I turned to running to relieve stress and provide some sanity to my now crazy life. After a friend had shared with me the benefits of LIVESTRONG, it was a no-brainer to join the team when I decided to run my first marathon in Chicago at the encouragement of my teenage son. The caring and inspiring support I received from the LIVESTRONG staff involved in that first event had me hooked and was just the beginning of some wonderful friendships.

That first year I raised enough funds to attend Ride for the Roses. Attending my first LIVESTRONG Challenge in Austin that October 2009 was a turning point for me. The camaraderie and sense of community that existed made me realize that I am not alone in this journey. There were lots of others struggling just like me. At first I felt as though I was an imposter being there as I was NOT a cancer survivor. At first I was embarrassed to share my story with others because I had not endured the surgeries, chemotherapy, loss of hair, etc. that my fellow participants had endured. However, a very brief conversation I had with LIVESTRONG CEO, Doug Ulman made me realize I wasn’t “trespassing” on this event. When I first introduced myself to Doug, I mentioned I wasn’t a survivor. However, he stopped me immediately and told me that me and my children certainly were survivors. I heard this same message repeatedly by those I met that weekend – strangers who became great friends…strangers that became a support system for me…strangers that now feel like family.

Being surrounded by others that “get it” made all the difference.

Each year since, I have added additional LIVESTRONG events along with other races. This year, the only events on my calendar are LIVESTRONG events.

My involvement in Team LIVESTRONG has provided me an opportunity to “pay it forward” with my children, for them to see the good in the world, and for them to gain support while they navigate the unique circumstances each has encountered. My daughter has had the opportunity to fundraise herself by hula hooping and unicycling, knowing that her efforts are helping others as she herself has been touched by the LIVESTRONG magic, attending Camp Kesem the past two years and making lifelong friends of her own.

As a mentor, not only do I encourage those involved in our events to educate others and assist them in their fundraising efforts, I also encourage them to get involved in other Team LIVESTRONG events…to branch out into the cycling world or the running world. Many of my friends that I have met along the way are now friends with others I have met along the way…just increasing that web of support and family.

This quote by Albert Schweitzer best describes my involvement with Team LIVESTRONG – “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

THANK YOU to the LIVESTRONG staff, participants and supporters for creating a COMMUNITY that allows all of us to “rekindle our inner spirit” during the ups and downs of navigating our lives during and after cancer.

We all have the ability to participate in an event – either as a participant or volunteer. Check your calendar and sign up for one – or several. I guarantee you will not regret it!

Barb Simmons
LIVESTRONG Fundraising Mentor


  1. Sullyburns says:

    Beautiful Barb. Look forward to seeing u in Oct!

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