Donor Name: Allison North Jones
At a young age I lost both my father and grandmother to kidney cancer. Twice in my young life - first at about 12 and again at 18 - was intimately exposed to how aggressively cancer can weaken a body, deteriorate the spirit and forever change lives. I watched as two of the most healthy, active, vibrant and spirited members of our family fought for their lives and eventually lost their battles with a disease that they would have done anything to beat.
Grandma was one of the most spirited and active people I knew, she walked miles around the pond in Van San Park near her home in River Edge, New Jersey, every day her entire life until she couldn't because of cancer.
Dad was an athlete, he grew up playing football and baseball and he passed on his love of sports and competition to both me and my brother. Throughout our lives, and even up to the very end of his life, Dad was playing or watching sports. He took his buddies golfing to tell them he had cancer and swinging a club his collar bone cracked. It was then that we learned the cancer was much more progressed then first diagnosed and it had spread to his bones. One of the last things he did was sit front row in a wheelchair and on oxygen at my younger brother's JV football game, cheering with all he had, and largely considered the team's biggest fan.
In adulthood, after a childhood of playing softball and swimming, I sought out opportunities to continue competing and became involved in cycling and triathlon. Every time I raced, at some point, usually the toughest point, I could feel Dad out on the course with me. Eventually I started asking the body markers to put Dad's initials somewhere on my body, either on my shoulder or beneath my age on my calf, a little reminder of the angel always watching over me and encouraging me to go on, knowing if he could he would be right out on the course alongside me.
Hours of training and racing lends time to a lot of thinking and I often found my mind wandering to how I could parlay my love of triathlon and cycling into something that would honor my family and support a disease I knew I had to make an investment in fighting. Spending so much time on the bike training for triathlon, I began to learn more about Livestrong and the more I learned the more it seemed to promote exactly what I had been looking for in a charity organization that supports the fight against cancer, but also promote healthy living, which I think is also one of the biggest pre-emptive ways to fight cancer, but also is tremendously important for healing - whether it be cancer survivors or families grieving the loss.
Shortly after Dad died, my mother, a family and marital therapist, was asked to author a piece about families and how they recover from loss for a collection of essays in a book entitled "The Power of Play." In her piece she concluded with a statement that embodied how I wanted to honor and remember my father and grandmother, something that has helped our family "survive" and something I think Livestrong embodies:
"Playing brings out the warm pain-free parts of our characters. When passage to another world strips away the warm presence of a family member, it becomes crystal clear what the meaning of play is in life. Play leaves a legacy of laughter and love that cannot be diminished or stolen."
We created this fund to support those who are still fighting. Those who will have to in the future, and the millions of survivors, family and friends who stand united, determined to fight and beat cancer and to honor those, including Dad and Grandma, who lost their fight but whose memories and legacies remain with all of us every day.