CANCER SURVIVORS AND OLYMPIANS: ARE THEY REALLY SO DIFFERENT?

I am one of the many Americans who love the Olympics, and the winter ones are my favorite. I enjoy the entire range of events from skiing, to snowboarding to ice skating. Ice skating is special to me.

I am truly mesmerized by the gracefulness and beauty of the ice skaters gliding across the ice. I hold my breath each time they do a triple axel or difficult step and groan when they fall. Of course, I cheer for Team USA, but I feel bad if anyone falls. These competitors typically practice from the time they are preschoolers. They have a single goal, and the families along with the athletes, make supreme sacrifices. Sometimes families move across the country, or relocate to another country to find a certain coach or training camp. The skater lives, sleeps and breathes skating. The emotional, physical and financial costs are huge.

The skater only gets a shot every four years. The Olympics are not like other sports, such as baseball or basketball, where one can always play the next day. If they reach the playoffs and lose, then they may need to wait a year, not four years.

I have also noticed something else amazing to me. If the skater does fall, what does he or she do? Do they sit down and cry? Or do they crawl to the sidelines and give up? Do they hang their heads in disgrace?

No – they get right back up and finish their number. Many times they are able to catch up with the music. They always finish with a flourish and hold their heads up high.

Maybe they fall apart later, but with an estimated 3 billion people watching, they show sportsmanship and grace.

I compare the skaters (and all the other sports) to the people with cancer I have met. I have watched survivors’ fight while undergoing terrible chemo and radiation and be in remission. Then, they find out that the cancer has returned or popped up somewhere else. I have witnessed personally how these courageous people get back up to fight all over again. I am certain they are crying at home, but when they are in the waiting room at the cancer center, or at the Patient Advisory Council meetings, or talking to each other, they are full of hope and courage.

Yes, I have a great admiration for the Olympic athletes who fall and get right back up. I know they have to wait another four years. But the cancer survivors I have met on my journey who fall and rebound are real heroes to me. Maybe a world stage isn’t watching, but their families, their friends, their compatriots in the waiting room, their contacts on Facebook and social media, are all watching them.

They inspire many other people, including me, more than they will ever know.

Col. George A. Custer originated the quote “It’s not how many times you get knocked down; it’s how many times you get back up.” Vince Lombardi used it later as a coach. Soldiers get back up, athletes get back up, but the true warriors are the cancer survivors. Thank you for your examples of courage – you are truly Olympian!