Tuesday, December 16, 2008
So this week I thought I would give a little more explanation of why I am doing an Ironman. That is the question I get asked the most by people and it definitely deserves a response. I know my fundraising website touches on some of my reasons, but that only scratches the surface.
This story will help explain:
So it was a Saturday afternoon. September 20th to be exact. I had the pleasure of paying a visit to the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. Team in Training offers participants the opportunity to come visit the hospital in order to meet some of the patients fighting leukemia and other blood related cancers. For me, this was my first visit of this kind. About 14 other of my teammates also came along and we were allowed to spend time on the floor of the hospital designated for leukemia patients. We were basically let loose to enter each room and meet the patients. At first, I felt a little awkward and didn't really know what to expect. I actually felt like I was intruding but I was assured that visitors are welcomed. I visited the room of about 7-8 patients who all had incredible stories, but it was the story of one family that really touched me.
I met Jorge and Maria Hernandez. They were a very pleasant couple. Their daughter was 9 years old and suffering from leukemia. Her name was Ashley. Ashley had suffered through EIGHT rounds of chemotherapy over the years and now she was doing better. She looked fantastic and so happy on this day. There is no way you would have guessed how much suffering this little girl had gone through just by looking at her. We brought some coloring books with us this day and she seemed to love the gift. Jorge and Maria were immigrants from El Salvador (that is where my family is from) and Mexico. We proceeded to explain to Jorge and Maria why we were there that afternoon, what Team In Training was all about and why we were all fundraising. Jorge proceeded to explain his family's struggle over the past few years caring for Ashley. It is important to note here before I go any further that Jorge was a very large man. Tall, husky and somebody I would not want to rub the wrong way. As Jorge explained his family's story he began to choke up and tear up. I was caught so off guard at first. Such a macho, tough looking fella but he was so emotional and open. He called Ashley the bravest and strongest person he had ever met in his life and said he was weak compared to what she had endured. His voice shook and eyes watered. He then continued to very kindly thank our group for participating in Team in Training and supporting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He was super impressed at our quest to run a marathon, but seemed more impressed that we were raising awareness for blood cancers. As you can imagine, I was pretty choked up by this point.
As the small group of us was preparing to leave the room, Jorge left us with some words of wisdom that changed me. It was the light bulb moment that I had which helped me decide to do an Ironman. Jorge told us all we were doing a good deed by spending our Saturday afternoon at the hospital. He said he realized there were lots of ways we could be spending our Saturday afternoon but we chose to be there. He told us to be appreciative of the opportunities we had in our lives. To take advantage of everything we were blessed to have and the opportunities this country has given us all. As an immigrant, Jorge explained he felt too many young adults in this country don't live to their fullest potential and don't realize how lucky they really are. Jorge told us to realize we have our health, families, and opportunities...to not take any of these blessing for granted. We then thanked each other and our time together was over.
It was during this weekend that I was contemplating the small, VERY small, idea of signing up for an Ironman. Just a small seed in the back of my head. It was also the same time I was realizing the fear I had of taking on this challenge. But it was the visit that Saturday afternoon and the words that Jorge left us with that made this decision a no brainer. Jorge made me realize I had nothing to fear. That I was LUCKY to have all that I have in life. I realized that I should do it...because I CAN. Because I was healthy enough to do it. Because others cannot and others, like his daughter, only wish they could so something as simple as play outside. Because life is full of opportunities to explore. It was just so crystal clear to me.
This is WHY I decided to do an Ironman. Because I can. To do it for others who can't. And to prove that the only limits that exists are the limits we place on ourselves.