Thursday, October 25, 2012


When I was a little girl I was fascinated by dropping pebbles into water and watching these little circles form around their entry points. But what was more beautiful was seeing those circles widen and touch other ripples.

When we view life alone we see just one circle, but when we look outside of ourselves we can see where our circles touch the boundaries of the circles of others. They might call that being human.

Sometimes we choose to enter someone's life with purpose or intent. Sometimes that person come to us by what seems a universal accident. And in a most interesting scenario: a person can come into our lives seemingly through a random shuffle of events and we must decide that person holds something that we need in our lives. I think this kind of the way I met Mary Eggers.
Posing with Team Eggers last Saturday
I met Mary because I was searching for Zach DeRidder. A young man named Shannon Case told me as I gathered young adults in our area who were cancer survivors (via social networking and message boards) that I should 'look up this kid'. The thing was, I called the number Shannon gave me twice and I couldn't get an answer. I emailed the email I was given, but never heard back.

Shannon said 'this kid was very sick but very inspiring' and that I probably wouldn't believe it because he had met Zach competing in triathlon! This was someone I had to find...and I turned to google. This is where I first became acquainted with the Iron Momma who turned out to be Mary, through her incredible blog about Zach. It was the fall of 2007. After reading her detailed blog, I tracked down Zach's friend and found out he had been in the hospital. It turned out he desperately wanted to meet another young survivor. But I never forgot the power of Mary's word. Her heart is on her sleeve in real life. Through the reach of the internet, it's on her blog.

Zach brought so many people into my life. But in a fluky way, so did Mary, because if it wasn't for her heartfelt description of this amazing guy who I 'had to meet' perhaps I would not have called one last time or tracked him down through one of his friends. Perhaps Zach's circles and mine may have never touched. And because his life changed mine so much I might not even be doing what I do now with the knowledge I have and with the conviction I have. 

Mary's circle touched mine then....before we even officially met.

I asked her for help in the summer of 2008 when some of us were trying to help Zach win a LiveStrong bike. Mary answered in a big way and rallied everyone together through her tremendously popular blog to help him get enough votes to win. And then there was meeting her and asking her to get me in shape...and that was the beginning of things really getting good.

Mary's circle could have touched mine in the last year a hundred different ways, but if I thought about it just the same, maybe not. It could be through the nurses that I now work with...but maybe I wouldn't be there to meet them.

 It could be through the friendships I have with more athletic people than myself.  Mary's son Luc needed to find a school more supportive for his challenges - as it turned out I had just left the Norman Howard School that he now attends after Mary's long fought battle to get him there. 
A nursing friend of Mary's ends up being someone from my small high school. She remembered me, but unfortunately as the 'sick kid' I became. I think she told Mary I had 'just sort of disappeared' near the end of high school, which is true. 
* I graduated in the next year's class...maybe to become a folklore piece or ghost of sorts to many of my previous classmates. That was due largely to the fact that people in that school district in the mid 1990s didn't know what to do with a sick kid. Who knows, I hope for their sake things have changed.

In a alternate universe I may have met Mary in some entirely different way. But our circles touched in just the way that helped to change my game. 

Well, we've been waiting to see if she wins this MVP Health Ultimate Game changer contest. 
She was nominated by Brittany, a young woman with all the affection in the world for her because Mary helped her restore her own athletic confidence after bone cancer through the TLC Fit program. 

We've been waiting and waiting with baited breath to see if Mary made it through the voting to be #1. Regardless of how that contest ends, there is no contest. Mary is a game changer in my book.
I may have indicated that in my speech to introduce her for her Make A Difference award last Saturday night....I don't remember what I said frankly, because the rush of emotion was too deep. And so it was for Brittany, who joined me on stage.

Mary's circle touches too many lives - she just is a game changer. 

If I were to explain Iron Momma like those pebbles dropped into a pond it would present like a firestorm of launched pebbles. I'm so grateful to be one of the circles hers happened to hit.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A scar tells a story

The other morning I was checking in at the gym when Anne, the woman at the desk shook me from my routine.

"Do you mind if I ask you a question?" 

I knew exactly what she was going to ask because I could see her eyes on my neck.

This question used to be a reason for me to feel anxious and afraid. Just a few short years ago I might have inwardly bridled at this impending question - wondering whether curiosity was from a place of unease at the appearance of the long curving line of discolored skin carving a u shaped path from one ear to the other. Wondering whether those eyes thought me a freak.

The fear for this question is gone.

I've learned to recognize a pleading look in eyes of a select group who ask this question. These are the queries of those, not pointing out a way that I am different, but seeing someone with something and desperately wanting to ask the stranger that question, breaking through the awkwardness to do so.

"Thyroid cancer?" she asked.

I nodded. She looked relieved.

"Me too."

I sighed.
She sighed.

We talked a little and shared a bit about this butterfly shaped gland we were now both missing. We both agreed it had shaped the course of our the lack of awareness about it left us in dire straits. 

My lack of diagnosis may have cost me the carefree high school and college years I should have had, while I suffered with very real symptoms that never were correctly pinpointed. Her lack of immediate care and surgery led to a serious condition called a thyroid storm, leaving her in intensive care and near death for weeks. She still suffers from various ailments- lasting parting gifts from a cancer she was told was the "good cancer".
I believe I've heard the same two-word description of the disease that turned my whole world upside down.

My neck tells a story. The scar is its opening chapter. It's a large and cumbersome wound that healed long ago but will always and forever be visible to the naked eye. It's too long and winding to have thought to measure.Unless I wear a turtleneck or a scarf the rest of my life I'm going to continue to have these moments. Moments where someone who feels seemingly alone reaches out and wonders aloud "you too?"

I used to be angry that I was left with such a visible reminder of my first cancer. There were times I wondered how I could ever look at my reflection and feel peace. My first solid dalliance with mortality is forever etched for others to see, but I think I'm finally okay with it. I know who I am...and who I am is not simply skin deep.

I wouldn't go so far as to say "I love my scar". I wouldn't say that suddenly it's become beautiful in my eyes, that would be a lie. But I will say that it tells a story, and I've lived that story. And now I am living differently because of it...I'm on a different path...and that I am okay with.

So, the scar is mine and it's a part of who I am now, the inside worn on the outside.

I was late to start my workout the other day. But my choosing to speak with this woman made a difference in her day. It was my choice to miss Zumba (I didn't tell her) to help her realize that someone else knew that she wasn't alone. My scar was the catalyst.