Giving Back and Paying it Forward

Having been directly affected by breast cancer, it would be impossible to expect that it hasn’t altered my perspective on the important, and not so important, things in life. I feel an intense need to pay it forward or, shall I say, give back. I’ve lost several friends to the very same disease, and now my mother lives with metastatic breast cancer, and this drives me to do more and do better every day. It started with just wanting to be a greater participant in life. I wanted to sleep less and live more. Life is often so fleeting, and, to be candid, the passage of time makes me anxious.

For the most part, I’ve always been a fairly active person. I have participated in many charity 5K races, including the local annual Susan G Komen Race for the Cure. After my cancer treatment was finished and my spirit began to heal, I got back to my training. I set my sights on a few half marathons and even joined a breast cancer survivor dragon boat team in 2011 whose mission is “to promote a healthy, active lifestyle and provide organized opportunities for physical fitness, wellness education, and psycho-social empowerment among breast cancer survivors and their supporters through the sport of dragon boating.” This exposure began to fulfill my desire to help other women, leading by example, and showing the world and myself that I AM A SURVIVOR. Shortly thereafter, I started cycling more and was riding my bike at least 6 days and 250 miles a week. Cycling has become my passion and a huge part of my life over the last few years. 

Two years ago I decided that I wanted to organize a charity cycling event in support of a local grassroots organization, The Women’s Breast & Heart Initiative, which provides education, outreach and access to healthcare for at-risk women. In the first year, with less than a month of planning and the help of a very good friend, we raised approximately $5,000. This past year we more than tripled that number and hosted more than 500 cyclists. The support has been tremendous, and I’m proud to have been able to provide people with an opportunity to make a difference in the community.  We plan to do it again this year – bigger and better!

Aside from organizing the charity cycling event, I’ve been able to use my experience to help others affected by breast cancer through participation in outreach events, speaking engagements, and breast cancer research studies, as a peer supporter and/or resource for other women, or simply just by living positively and quietly providing hope to other women who might find themselves in the same difficult spot that I was in back in 2008. I’m so very grateful for the opportunity to participate in life and the chance to give back and pay it forward. Life is so fleeting, and I intend to soak up every last drop! 

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