Team LIVESTRONG is taking on the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October with more than 50 teammates who have already raised $25,000 for the Foundation. Hear from Team LIVESTRONG participant Jimena Peña-Garza as she tells LIVESTRONG how she’s honoring her father’s memory by taking on her first full marathon while raising funds and awareness for the Foundation.
How have you been affected by cancer?
Cancer took my father when I was 23; it’s been the single most difficult thing I’ve ever had to deal with. He had a fast and aggressive battle with lung cancer that claimed his life less than one month from diagnosis. In addition to my dad, I’ve lost numerous uncles and an aunt. I lost a young cousin when she was only 12 and a friend at the age of 29. Cancer has dealt some devastating blows, but my best friend has also successfully beaten an early breast cancer diagnosis. She inspires me with her outlook.
Can you tell us more about your Team LIVESTRONG participation?
My first race ever was a 5k in memory of my dad in 2007: the LIVESTRONG Challenge in Austin. I have participated in the 5K LIVESTRONG Challenge in Austin every year until it was no longer offered. I am now participating in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon (my first marathon) as a member of Team LIVESTRONG. I am also participating in the LIVESTRONG Challenge Ride in Austin a week after the marathon.
Why did you join Team LIVESTRONG?
I joined the team because I believe in the organization. I know that it’s taken some hits in recent years, but it’s up to us to restore the faith people should rightfully have in the LIVESTRONG Foundation. LIVESTRONG is more than one person or a yellow bracelet; LIVESTRONG represents a helping hand during a very real struggle that no one should ever have to face alone. Support is essential to those affected by cancer to overcome and rise. For me, on a personal level, I joined LIVESTRONG once again because I felt it would be a meaningful way to accomplish my goal of completing my first marathon while also raising money for the organization that, in a sense, started it all for me as a runner, as well as honoring my father and so many other loved ones lost.
Have you used the LIVESTRONG Foundation’s navigation services?
The circumstances surrounding my dad’s diagnosis were difficult. He didn’t have health insurance, he was just recuperating from an unrelated surgery that put him out of work and he only spoke Spanish. Every door seemed closed. Dealing with the crushing news and making sense of the entire process felt convoluted and overwhelming. Shortly after he passed, I found LIVESTRONG and felt that had we gotten a little more time with him, the tools offered would have made a world of difference in navigating so many aspects of life during that time. I’ve spent a lot of time researching the programs offered, and I feel that the resources available through the LIVESTRONG Foundation are phenomenal. They helped me deal with the grief and feel less alone.
What does LIVESTRONG mean to you?
LIVESTRONG means fighting against the fear. It means picking up the pieces and reclaiming your life no matter how devastating the outlook.
Share one piece of advice you would give to someone affected by cancer.
Use the tools. Use the support. Use anything you can get your hands on. Reach out and ask for help though it all, during and after. Don’t fear the unknown, take control of it.
Keep updated on Jimena and the rest of the team’s stories, or join with your own entry at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Team LIVESTRONG site.