Saturday, September 8, 2012


One thing that I have been doing more of since starting this blog is reading the stories of other people who are facing battles of their own.  I guess I am intrigued by (and sometimes desperate to) learn about how different people are making their way through their challenges.  One common denominator that I notice in the stories that inspire me is that each person speaks in a direct way, from the heart, and that each of them has a positive attitude (like my dad), although none of it is too flowery or Fantasy Islandish.  

I recently came across the story of Suleika Jaouad (pronounced "su-LAKE-uh ja-WAD"), which I feel compelled to share; in reading what she has written about her battle with cancer, it is clear that she is nothing short of a badass, and I find her stories, her writing style, and her perspective to be both inspiring and empowering.   Suleika writes a weekly column for the New York Times called 'Life, Interrupted,' in which she chronicles her journey with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).  Her blog, Secrets of Cancerhood, includes links to her series of newspaper articles and her video journal, which she has been keeping since her diagnosis in May of 2011.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Truth about Childhood Cancer

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Monthand I'd like to share some information about a project about which I have recently learned in regards to childhood cancer.

This project, called The Truth 365, is a ground-breaking, grass-roots documentary film and social media campaign that has set a goal to give a voice to all children fighting cancer and those who care about them.  They want to make all of us aware of the things that need to be done in battling pediatric cancer and to spotlight the state of childhood cancer research funding by uniting the childhood cancer community, government officials, top pediatric oncologists, and several of the country's most influential celebrities. 

This is an important effort, and here's why:  The Truth is that childhood cancer research is vastly underfunded, and the funding that's needed needs to become a priority for all of us, right now, because childhood cancer is the #1 cause of disease-related death in children under the age of 14, killing more than asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and pediatric AIDS combined. In the United States alone, 13,500 children are diagnosed with cancer every year, which translates to 46 children and their families getting a cancer diagnosis every single day, 365 days a year.  And although one out of every five of these children who are diagnosed with cancer will die, those who survive are often left with life-changing side effects from the cancer and the treatment that was used, which is often based on research done on adults with cancer instead of on children. The Truth is that the incidence of invasive pediatric cancers is up 29% in the past 20 years, and yet only $20,000 is invested in cancer research for every $595,000 invested in pediatric AIDS research.  Of the National Cancer Institute's budget of $4.6 billion, breast cancer received 12%, prostate cancer received 7%, and all 12 major groups of pediatric cancer combined received less than 4%.

The Truth is that this isn't right - and that it's not acceptable just to look away, as if these statistics don't affect every one of us, because they do.  To learn more, check out the Facebook page for this campaign and the group's website  to find out what's going on in their efforts, and stay tuned for the launch of their film which is due out on September 13.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Art of Sportsmanship

One of the things I love about the Olympics is that through watching the Games, we occasionally get to see little glimpses of good sportsmanship that are unlike anything seen in mainstream sports.  Good sportsmanship, to me, comes from having a genuine love of one's sport and can only really be experienced when one has the right perspective; it's about being grateful for having the chance to compete, no matter what the outcome.  

I think perhaps everybody's favorite competitor based on sportsmanship this summer was South African Oscar Pistorius, who advanced to compete in the 400-meter finals despite having two prosthetic legs.  

Another example of an athlete who was a good sport in the face of competition was Sam Mikulak, the U.S. gymnast who was in third place in the men's vaulting event as he openly cheered on the competitors who performed after him and ultimately bumped him out of medal position.

But my favorite moment of sportsmanship was in the mens' 10,000 meter run during track and field; skip ahead to 2:40 on this video clip and you'll see Mo Farah, the British distance runner, cross the finish line first to take the gold, followed by his training buddy and my pick for Best Sport of the 2012 Games, Galen Rupp of the U.S.:

In my years of competitive running while I was growing up, my dad always encouraged me before every race to gut it out and to give it my all, to do the homework (and by that he meant to put in the miles and the training beforehand AND to learn whatever I could about both my competition and the course ahead of time), but to leave it all on the track.  He taught me that when the race was over, my competitors were my friends, that our mutual love of running made us allies in a sense.  Through advice that my dad gave me about running, I learned that how one behaves before, during, and after the event is every bit if not more important that who stands on the awards podium at the finish and that sometimes it's your day to have a good race and sometimes it's someone else's day.  That's how I came to value Sportmanship and all it embodies - respect, fairness, kindness, and honesty.