Aug. 25, 2008


-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Aug. 23, 2008

One-on-One Cancer Support: Imerman Angels

Jonny Imerman was relentless in trying to talk to everyone present at the summit- and yes, I do mean EVERYONE- to the point where he almost lost his voice after the first day. Once you met him and listened to his story, you just couldn't help but be inspired by his story and the way he turned his own experience into something positive for so many people. Here's part of what he told me:

At the age of 26, Jonny was fighting cancer. Although he had the support and visits from his family and friends, he always hoped to meet a cancer survivor who had already beaten the same type of cancer in order to talk about their experiences- someone who'd just get it because he was in the same situation.

He also realized that not everyone in that hospital had visitors or even the support of their family. He went into other patients' rooms and started talking to them. He soon realized that it is a very important step of fighting cancer, to be able to talk with someone and find some kind of enouragement through successful cancer survivors. If they saw and talked to people who were in their shoes and made it, that would be a huge inspiration for them in their own fight.

Instead of going back to his regular life after surviving cancer, Jonny went to work and founded his own not-for-profit organization, called Imerman Angels. Basically, they connect cancer fighters with cancer survivors who have beaten the same type of cancer, so that this one-on-one interaction gives the fighter the chance to ask questions and receive personal encouragement from someone who's "uniquely familiar" with that situation. They also connect caregivers, so that the families and friends of a cancer fighter can talk to other caregivers who will get what they're going through because they experienced the same struggles, fears or challenges.

Based in Chicago, the organization connects cancer fighters and survivors as well as caregivers throughout the US and even worldwide. Sometimes they pair up people from the same city, but it is more important to find similar stories, than it is to find people living in the same geographical region.

Please visit their website to find out more about the organization Imerman Angels.

Thanks for reading!

Aug. 22, 2008

... and sometimes those who inspire us do win medals!

The men's 10k open water swimming event took place yesterday. 7 1/2 years after his diagnosis with ALL (Acute Lymfatic Leukemia), Maarten van der Weijden took home the gold medal. After his race, he said: "When you're lying in hospital, being tired and in a lot of pain, you're not thinking about next week. You're thinking about the next hour. You're getting patient, lying in your bed, just waiting. It's the same with the race strategy today: being patient, staying calm and .waiting for your chance to come."

On his webste, he's being introduced as world champion and cancer survivor- now he'll be able to add Olympic Champion. He'll hopefully continue to spend a large amount of time raising awareness to leukemia and telling his story.

But that wasn't the only story being told in this race. Thomas Lurz of Germany finished third. He didn't cry because he wanted to win gold or because he got into a struggle with the Brit and thus lost a few seconds . He cried because he was thinking about his dad Peter (German coordinator of long-distance swimming) who died of a heart attack during a cycling tour last year. Thank you for an exciting race and showing us that some things are more important than winning.

Aug. 21, 2008

Sometimes it doesn't take a gold medal to be a real champion!

Natalie du Toit was a very promising talent in South Africa's swim team, training hard to make it to the Athens Olympics. Those plans changed abruptly in 2001, when she had a terrible accident with her motor scooter, which resulted in the doctors amputating at the knee.

Did that stop her Olympic dreams- not even close. She had a sensational comeback in both disabled and able bodied swim events and qualified for the Beijing Olympics. She carried South Africa's flag during the opening ceremony, and finished the 10k open water swim event on Wednesday 16th (after having some problems with her cap and thus skipping drink stops).

She wasn't satisfied with her result, but already plans to be back at the 2012 Olympics in London. Plus, she'll compete in the Beijing Paralympics, where she's a heavy favorite, trying to defend the 5 gold medals she won in Athens.

Her coach gave her a poem prior to the accident, that didn't mean much to her at that time, but now serves as an inspiration:

"The tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goals;
The tragedy of life lies in not having goals to reach for.
It is not a disgrace not to reach for the stars,
But it is a disgrace not to have stars to reach for."

A great motto to live your life. Natalie is a true inspiration as an athlete and a survivor, showing everyone that you don't have to be treated differently just because you're different in some way. Please visit her website to read her story and be prepared to get inspired!

Aug. 19, 2008

Fundraising auctions part II (Rickey Paulding and Dirk Nowitzki signed jersey +...)

Okay, today I'll take a break from "reporting" from the Olympics (although there is an awesome story from the German weightlifting team), and take a moment to write about my second fundraising auctions on a well-know auction platform (I won't mention the name, just because they refused to consider the Nowitzki jersey as part of a celebrity fundraising auction, which would have brought more attention and less fees- apparently, he's not a big enough star. So funny).

My lovely hometown basketball team, the EWE Baskets Oldenburg were kind enough to support my LAF fundraising with a signed Rickey Paulding jersey (you can watch the item here) . Some of you might actually know Rickey from his college days, when he played for the University of Missouri. In his junior year, he scored 37 points and making an astounding nine threes against Dwyana Wade in the NCAA tournament. This summer, instead of taking a well-deserved vacation, he went to the Utah Jazz summer camp.

Plus, he has been wearing a yellow band, even before they knew about my LAF volunteer work. I gave a bunch of wristbands to the front office, too, so now they're all set to wear yellow (which matches the jersey really well.) This is from the team picture, also featuring our mascot, the thunderbird HUBIRD (I know, we get a lot of grief over that name ;-) This is a video from YouTube with Rickey Paulding highlights from last season- I kind of like that song, though. He sure is our MVP!

There's another basketball item, a signed jersey from our best basketball player, who also carried the German flag during the Beijing opening ceremony, Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. I already mentioned that he supported my fundraising last year, too, so I'm just very thankful to the whole team around Dirk. Of course, the proceeds from these auctions will go to the LAF 100%. I'll pay for all eBay and paypal expenses (thanks again for not letting me sell those items as a charity item).

But I'll also auction off some of my Livestrong Challenge memorabilia. I looked around and found a keychain that was given to the top fundraisers of the 2007 season (so why did I get one? That's the beauty of being invited to the appreciation dinner), a LIVESTRONG Challenge duffel bag (which was an incentive for raising over $1000 last year), a LIVESTRONG water bottle, a shirt, and some other stuff. Though I liked all those items, this will hopefully help me make it to the Austin Challenge this year, so I'll part with those. Plus, I have lots of other stuff, and the best memorabilia really are the pictures with other participants and fellow mentors. Oh, and me on a Trek Madone bike wasn't too bad, either.

Here's a list of some of the items. All these items will end on August, 29th:
Thanks for reading!

Aug. 18, 2008

Oksana Chusovitina

Oksana Chusovitina, a 33 year old gymnast, won the silver medal in the vault event final, yesterday. That's pretty amazing, when you think about the fact that her career in gymnastics has lasted for twenty years. Early on in her career, she competed for the Soviet Union and later Uzbekistan- now she's a member of the German team. The Beijing games are her fifth Olympics, she also competed in 10 World Championships and won a record setting eight World Championships on the vault.

Her son Alisher was born in 1999. In 2002, he was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. She went to a local hospital and was told that in order for the doctors to save her son, she would have to pay an enormous amount of money. She didn't have the money, but she did have some contacts to coaches of a Cologne Club. With their help, prize money and donations from all around the world, she was able to send her son to the University of Cologne hospital to start treatment and Oksana started training in Cologne.

In 2006 she received the German citizenship and started competing for Germany.

Not only is she the oldest female gymnast to ever win an Olympic medal, she's also a very inspiring person. She recently said in an interview that she planned to continue competing in the vault events and I hope we'll hear a lot more from this remarkable athlete and strong women!

Aug. 16, 2008

Robert Müller

He's one of the best hockey goalies in Germany, has been one of the goal tenders of our national team at the world championships in Canada, and led the Cologne Sharks to 2nd place in the German league last season.

28 yearl old Robert Müller is also a husband and father and a brain tumor survivor. He had a successful brain surgery two years ago, returned to professional sports and made a sensational comeback only 2 months after his surgery. However, he was aware of the fact that cancer never leaves you completely.

Now, the Cologne Sharks announced that Robert will be back in hospital and is scheduled for another surgery on Monday to remove a tissue sample.

Our national team coach Uwe Krupp said it all: "He's done it once, now he'll need to cross the hurdles once again. With his attitude, he'll make it!"

Aug. 15, 2008

Still speechless...

Still a little speechless, stunned, amazed and overwhelmed (all in a very good way). So I'll keep it short for now:

"You're part of the solution, or part of the problem.
You're gonna have to dance with one"

Follow your heart and do what you believe is right...
even if most other people ask if you are crazy!

Aug. 13, 2008

Ready to quit ?

Yesterday, all my good intentions of writing a very upbeat 100th post went down the drain when a woman in her mid-twenties attacked me verbally at our local post office. I have no idea what brought this on other than the fact that I was mailing some yellow bands to people who were kind enough to donate a little money for my fundraising efforts. So, one second I was enjoying a really nice day (after all it was a truely golden tuesday for the German Olympic squad and my Red Sox had won), the other this girl started screaming at me.

She got rather personal and in the end asked me if I were aware of the fact that I killed hundreds of people. I was stunned, to say the least, and first I really thought she was drunk. But then she explained how I, as a cyclist and being involved with the LAF, have this huge responsibility in people's death caused by doping and cancer. All I could think of was "WHAT?". I was too shocked to respond in style, I'm afraid.

I experienced all the crazy religious comments about how I was responsible for my illnesses, because I didn't pray enough or wasn't a good enough Catholic. I dealt with that, but it just never stops and quite honestly, I'm getting sick and tired of these people.

So, here it is: my very own pro and con list of why it would be a wise decision to quit:

  • no more trash-talking and rude people who can't make the difference between people involved in the fight against cancer and hobby-cyclists and those criminals using doping to cheat on their opponents and the fans
  • no more questions about why in God's name I'm raising funds for a US-Foundation when I don't get anything out of it (concerning tax breaks or monetary rewards)
  • no more explanations that being a mentor is not a paid position
  • no more explanations that I'm not doing this to hero-worship Lance Armstrong
  • not being disappointed when yet another person who promised to support my fundraising efforts doesn't follow up on his/her promise
  • I've never been a quitter and don't plan on becoming on in the future
  • I have the best support system in the world (you know who you are, but just to mention a few: Kate and Michael are always the first to build me up after another low point of my cancer-related activities)
  • Trash talking people come and go, but there's this amazing group of veteran mentors and staff at the LAF who inspire me on a daily basis. I'm part of a great team and plan on staying on it for years to come. You're not getting rid of me that easily ;-)
  • Being a mentor connects me to some of the most dedicated participants of the LIVESTRONG Challenge. We might not be the top fundraisers or win any of the LIVESTRONG Challenge awards, but we do have to overcome some very high obstacles. I honestly believe that you guys are more committed to this cause than some other who might have a higher total in their fundraising efforts. Letting down this group by giving up is not an option!
  • Being involved in the LAF's grassroots program connects me to some of the most wonderful volunteers that a foundation could wish for. I met a lot of these people at the summit in Columbus or read their stories on their blogs. I couldn't be more proud to be in their company and I won't disappoint you by giving up.
  • There are close to 3.000 deaths per day related to cancer in Europe. That's the casualties of 9/11 every single day... and that's just Europe. If I'm not involved in trying to change those statistics, how can I expect our politicians or other Europeans to get active, to write letters to our politicians, to get cancer research and early detection into the news?
  • Being involved in the fight against cancer truely is a matter of the heart and it's part of my life, it's personal and I have an obligation to keep on going and fight for my loved ones who've been touched by cancer: my mom, my grandma, my aunt, my cousin, my great-cousins, my great-uncle, my friends, etc.
What's important is to give it your best and at the end of the day feel good about what you were able to achieve. If it's recruiting one person to join the LIVESTRONG Army and get active in cancer advocacy, that's a good thing. If it means raising $5, that's good, too. If I won't make it to Austin this year (I have a deal with a sponsor who'd take care of the whole travel expenses if I manage to raise $2500), it's not the end of the world. It's not a sign of failure, although I hope like hell there will be a miracle (or another sponsor for that matter).

When it comes right down to it, the Cons are way more powerful and way more important than the Pros. I can deal with the stupidity and ignorance of some people now and again. I will continue to explain my side of the story to people over and over again. This is too important an issue to just quit.

It'll be tough, it'll hurt at times, it most likely won't earn me any appreciation in my country. But once an athlete, always an athlete: Giving up will never be part of my vocabulary!

Thanks for reading.
I'll keep the more upbeat post for my 101st post, I promise.

Aug. 10, 2008

Olympics: teamwork at its best...

The core of the German basketball team has been playing together ever since their youths and it shows. It's a perfect team (no I don't define a perfect team as someone who always wins gold medals) with a lot of good players, and a star forward who's now being joined by a NBA center. This is not about players, this is about team effort only.

Without a doubt, Dirk Nowitzki and Chris(toph) Kaman(n) are the most prominent players and they led the team to a 95:66 victory against Angola this morning (Yahoo!). Let's face it, Dirk Nowitzki has been leading the team all the way to the Olympics, but he also led the team during some tough play-downs over the years and I don't know a lot of NBA stars who'd do that.

The whole team is walking around the Olympic village like kids in a toy store. Their enthusiasm is obvious, and you can't help smiling whenever you see on of those great haircuts ;-)

But what's most important to them these days, is to dedicate each victory to their team mate, Ademola Okulaja, whose at home recovering from a broken vertebra. He had back pains for quite some time prior to his diagnosis and the doctors are now predicting a tumor might have caused this injury. He's in for more tests, obviously.

Thanks for reading.

P.S.: I'm so proud that Dirk Nowitzki's foundation has once again donated a signed jersey that'll benefit my LAF fundraising. In times when being involved in the fight against cancer doesn't give you a lot of publicity, they rise to the occasion once again. I cannot thank you guys enough. The online auction will start within the next 10 days and I'll post about it soon.

Aug. 8, 2008

3X Young Adult Cancer Survivor & friend nominated for Glamour’s woman of the year

"Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional!"

My friend Rachel Baumgartner Lozano made the top 5 of Glamour's "Woman of the year" award. She's a 3-time survivor of Askin's tumor of the spinal cord (a malignant sarcoma that is a small-cell tumor of the soft tissues in the thoracopulmonary area). The doctors' prognosis after her relapse weren't very good (what an understatement). Quite honestly, she was given months to live. Everyone else who ever had Askin's Tumor and relapsed after a transplant had died within weeks. Click here for more of her story!

People say that there are 2 ways to react once you got diagnosed with cancer:
  1. survive and then try to ignore you ever had cancer and try to live your life just like you did prior to the diagnosis
  2. fight like hell, survive, and then become active in the fight against cancer. Telling your story so that others can benefit from your experiences, advocate on a local, state or national level to improve cancer research and early detection, etc.
Obviously, Rachel chose the second option. Not only did she survive (which is a miracle all in itself), she became actively involved in seven cancer charities. Rachel is an advocate and a great role model for young adult survivors and warriors, an artist, a university student following her dreams (Yahoo!) and just a very inspiring young woman. There are still lots of ups and downs emotionally and psychologically and physically, I won't tell you her life is a piece off cake now that she's a survivor, because it's not, but does she ever impersonate the quote mentioned above.

Rachel is an advocate for the LAF (she was invited by the LAF to be one of the two delegates from the state of Missouri in May 2007 to address members of Congress in support of increased funding for cancer research), she started her own blog after attending the 2006 summit in Austin: and recently, she served as an honorary ambassador for The Wellness Community walk.

If you know anyone who might like to vote for her, please pass along the link- and don't forget to vote right now. You can vote for her once a day:

From one hypothyroid girl to another: You ROCK, Rach, and I'm glad to know you. Even though you couldn't make it to the summit this year, we'll meet some other time!

Aug. 1, 2008

Back from the LIVESTRONG summit

After getting back from Columbus on Tuesday, I had some minor problems (most of them due to the high humidity and my thyroid issues), but I'm doing okay now, so no worries.

First of all, I can't tell you how amazing the summit was. Not only because we got to hear some amazing speakers and had some good training sessions, but most of all because of the other delegates and their stories. Even prior to the opening reception, I met some very inspiring people- most of them cancer survivors, but some co-survivors and care-givers, too. The stories all sound familiar in some way, but they're also very unique in other ways and sure broadened my "cancer horizon".

It was amazing to meet so many people that I only knew from other blogs, websites or forums. Some of them even happened to be on the same track as I was. Just to mention a few people: L, Sarah, Gail and Ang (fellow crazy sexies)- it was absolutely amazing to meet you all. I know we all wished that Callie could have been there with us, but you all are amazing women. Your stories, your strengths and weaknesses inspire me on a daily basis, you're not pretenders, but the real thing and I appreciate that. I'm so glad I got to meet you in person and share a wonderful experience and quite a lot of smiles!

I also (finally) got to meet my truely wonderful friend Kate. I got to know her through some blogs and it's funny that we considered ourselves "friends" even before we met- guess in this electronic age, things like that just happen. Kate is the local LIVESTRONG Army leader of Utah, and also helped me with a couple of blog problems and fundraising (even though she probably would say she didn't do much- wrong, she's amazing and a true friend). We met at the reception, but when we went back to the hotel to change into the "vote yellow" LAF shirts (did I mention we were roomies?), there were all these cute little gifts she brought me from Utah, including a lovely necklace, some fun t-shirts and some sweets/honey/salt from Utah. I brought some small gifts, too, to thank her for all her help over the years, and fortunately had the right idea, cause she really liked my German Gnome and the LIVESTRONG Army Utah bag I made for her. Yep, that's the gnome in the picture...

I also got to meet Scott (fellow mentor and LIVESTRONG Army leader), Brian Dowd (cancer advocate and fundraiser), Dee (a fellow LIVESTRONG Army leader), Christina (Greater Miss Las Vegas and fellow LIVESTRONG Army leader), Sarah (a LAF grassroots coordinator)- the list really goes on and on, so don't be mad if I didn't mention your name ;-)

Oh, and definitely one of the highlights of the weekend: meeting Doug, the LAF's president, fellow cancer survivor and soccer player! I know there were a lot of people who were a little star-crazed over getting to see Lance Armstrong, getting a picture or an autograph. Well, that's not really my thing, but meeting Doug was really special. Every time he went on stage and talked about fighting cancer you just felt that he's really passionate about it and in it to win... also, he wasn't afraid to wear a yellow tie (not like some other people I won't mention here).

I met Doug at the Columbus Zoo dinner and he was kind enough to talk to me for a few minutes- mostly about the new ideas to take the Livestrong idea and movement and apply those strategies and some programs internationally. Hopefully I can make a tiny impact in helping them build a stronger base in Europe by forming a LIVESTRONG Army Europe. Apparently, someone standing very close made a rather funny comment, but for the life of me, I can't remember what it was ;-)

With all those amazing people I met, there are also a few people who were planning to attend and had to cancel at the last moment - all had some pretty good reason to cancel. But we missed you, anyway: Rachel, Michael, Patricia, Callie. You all ROCK!!!

More on the summit to come soon- so check back! And thanks for reading!