This week, all the triathlon participants who have raised over $1,000 were given a letter from our honored teammate, Fran. I've pasted the letter below in its entirety.
Dear Wildflower Participant,
My name is Fran and I am a Lymphoma survivor.
I have two reasons to write to you: first, to thank you from the bottom of my heart for commiting yourself to raise funds to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). The LLS is truly one of the great organizations working in support of cancer patients today. As you probably already know, the LLS provides critical support for blood cancer research funding, You may not have heard of, however, the unparalleled patient support services provided by the LLS.
Before I had cancer, I never knew how terribly hard it is to be a cancer patient. I knew that chemotherapy could make you bald, and that cancer was a frightening diagnosis – but I didn’t understand how this disease impacts every part of your life. For me in particular it was coping with the uncertainly of cancer that proved to be the most difficult. At the time of my diagnosis I was overcome with fear of the unknown. I tried talking to friends, bugging my doctors, going on the web (a very bad idea), reading Lance Armstrong, but nothing seemed to make a difference. That was when I called the LLS. They answered all of my questions, even those I was too afraid to ask. They understood that having cancer is so difficult that you really want to speak with someone in your shoes. Through the LLS’s unique First Connection Program I was able to speak with fellow patients who had my exact diagnosis and who were one year cancer free. Believe me – it was a huge boost to me to speak to someone who had been where I was, made it through chemotherapy, and was cancer free for a year.
Today, I too am in this fortunate position: 16 months out of chemotherapy, with no evidence of the disease and training to be a First Connector myself. However, not a day goes by that I don’t think about if or when the cancer will return. My fellow patients tell me that for people like me this is the “new normal.” Once again, it’s a lot easier because the LLS continues to be there for me. Every month they hold seminars to help those living with cancer and I am a regular at the meetings. The topics range from treatment advances, to how to talk with your medical team, to employment issues surrounding cancer.
As you can see – you are making a real difference in people’s lives. Without your efforts there might not be someone at the end of phone answering those difficult questions, making the key first connections or setting up that seminar. Without you I know that the over 900,000 blood cancer patients in the US today would be much worse off.
My second reason for writing is about YOU! Congratulations! You have embarked on an athletic endeavor that may seem a bit scary, but, trust me, will be a hugely rewarding experience. As I’m sure you have learned already, your TNT coaches and mentors are dedicated, skilled, inspirational and generally fantastic. You will make sacrifices over the next few months – training can be hard in the cold and dark of winter but it is well worth it. Believe me, you are going to be so proud of yourself and your teammates when you cross the finish line! (And you will cross it!) Rarely in our lives do we get to experience the unity that Team in Training is able to foster. It helps all of us be part of something larger than ourselves.
I have close friends, relatives and others who asked when they found out I had Lymphoma; what can I do to help? You have already figured that out. By being part of the Team in Training Program and raising funds for the LLS you are helping me and all blood cancer patients and survivors to live better and longer lives.
So again, thank you so very much for being part of Team in Training. And if you are training and you hear someone groaning behind you – way behind you. It’s probably me! I am doing the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in the spring. It is my second tri with TNT. Last year, four months out of chemo, I was close to the last person over the finish line – but my smile was as big as that of the first place finisher. This year, I am looking for a few people to pass on my way to the finish line – so keep training!