After the initial shock of receiving my diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia on April 11, 2011, my daughter Alexandra wanted to do something meaningful in my honor. After researching options, she learned about The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Light The Night Walk and registered as a team captain for both herself and me. Before being diagnosed I literally knew nothing about blood cancers and although I had heard of Light The Night, I was not sure what it was all about. Once we began promotion for our Light The Night team, it was astounding to discover how many people wanted to support us. We didn’t have much trouble meeting our goal of raising $1,000 and even exceeded it. The night of the walk was purely magical. Nothing could have prepared me for the number of people who came out to support Light The Night as well as the inspirational mood of the entire event. It was reassuring to learn that there were so many others out there who were affected by blood cancer and I was not alone.
The following year for the Light The Night Walk, I volunteered to be the team captain for the Kaiser Permanente Team in Santa Rosa where I’ve worked for over 25 years. Our team quickly grew to over 30 walkers and we raised over $6,000! It was so motivating that I volunteered to be the team captain again for the 2013 Light The Night Kaiser Permanente Team, where we had over 40 walkers and were one of the top corporate fundraising teams!
In 2012 another amazing experience occurred. My very good friend Virginia (a Team In Training alumni who is about to participate in her second Lavaman Triathlon) asked if I would be an honoree for her Team In Training cycling team for America’s Beautiful Bike Ride (AMBBR). As an honoree, I was so touched and excited that I attended the event in Lake Tahoe, created colorful signs and cheered at the rest stop for all of the riders as they cycled past me on their 100 mile journey. That was the moment I decided that I would participate in the 2013 AMBBR ride with Team In Training.
I figured that if all of these amazing people could give up every Saturday during the training season, as well as raise close to $3,000 each, I needed to give back and do the same! I soon found a bike and from the moment the cycling team training began, I was inspired. I couldn’t have asked for a better support network of people who believed in me and wanted me to succeed – even when I thought I couldn’t. I couldn’t imagine cycling 100 miles around beautiful Lake Tahoe, but I did and was motivated by the love and support of my amazing family, friends and the Team In Training team.
A little bit of tenacity can go a long way – 100 miles, in fact! The day of the race, my brother did an incredible thing to help me make my journey around the lake. He and his two kids created a dozen signs with my picture and the words “Go Lisa Go”, got up early on the day of the ride, drove the entire route and posted the signs along the route. Imagine my shock as I was pedaling with all my might and look up to see a picture of myself! During the last stage of the ride, after being on my bike saddle for over 10 hours, alone and struggling up the last big hill with tears in my eyes, a cyclist passed me and noticed one of the signs and said “Wow, how cool is that?” Hearing a stranger being impressed with this suddenly provided me with a surge of determination to get this ride done!
I’m now training for my second AMBBR ride and chose to be a mentor to share my experience and provide encouragement to others making this huge commitment. I’m also my team’s SAG (support and gear) Captain, ensuring the team has ride support throughout the season. I love being able to give back to Team in Training & LLS for all the assistance they’ve helped me with.
The most surprising change with my life since being diagnosed with leukemia is how much it has transformed me in such a positive way. I can honestly say that I’m in a better place, emotionally and physically, and I love my life! I believe in always looking for the silver lining and I most definitely found it through LLS!