This story originally appeared in Bridges, MSK’s newsletter for cancer survivors. Bridges offers a forum in which patients and their families can share stories of inspiration and hope, and of the challenges that can accompany a cancer journey. Learn more about how to receive Bridges and how to submit your story here.
I first learned about Cycle for Survival when I was back at MSK for an annual checkup. When I was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin lymphoma in March 2008, I promised myself that after I got through chemotherapy and radiation, I would do what I could to help other people with cancer. As soon as treatment ended and I regained my strength, I started fundraising for various cancer organizations. However, I always wanted to do something for MSK specifically. After all, MSK was my home away from home for many months, the place that saved my life, and a place dedicated to doing the same for so many other patients and their families. I’m not able to run with Fred’s Team due to a bone disease in my hips caused by the chemo, so when I read about Cycle for Survival, I knew this was my opportunity to help MSK fight rare cancers.
Due to hip surgery in 2013 and then a full hip replacement in late 2014, my Cycle for Survival debut kept getting pushed back. But in 2015, I was the healthiest I had been since 2008 and was ready to sign up as a team captain, put together a solid team, and raise money to help beat rare cancers. I was living in New York City at the time and was so excited to participate in my favorite city — the very place where I had fought my battle. Family members, friends, and coworkers all joined “Abby’s Army,” and we had an extremely successful fundraising run. My twin sister and a few of my closest friends flew in, making the event even more meaningful to me.
The room was full of survivors, families and friends of those who had lost their battle, current fighters, and people committed to the cause. There were people of all ages and from all backgrounds, but everyone came together with one goal: to raise money to help more people reach that survivor status. Tears rolled down people’s cheeks as they remembered loved ones who fought so hard to live, and strangers hugged to celebrate those who were still with us. As a survivor, the emotions overcame me. I was so proud to be standing in that room on two legs and so determined to help others achieve the same outcome. I had participated in many fundraising events in my life, but never before had I witnessed the energy, dedication, and passion that I saw that morning at the midtown Equinox.
Cheers and tears intertwined to make it a truly beautiful Saturday.
Knowing my story, the Cycle for Survival team asked me to speak to kick off a ride. I stood up in the middle of the room wearing the lucky Cubs hat I wore throughout chemotherapy, and I thanked my friends and family who were riding with me that day and who had worked hard to raise more than $20,000. As I told my story, I knew there were so many people in the room who had lost friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons. It invigorated me to continue doing what I could to help MSK and Cycle for Survival find answers to these rare cancers that plague our world. Now living in Chicago, I can’t wait to see Abby’s Army T-shirts fill a Chicago Equinox in the winter of 2019 — and I know that the love, emotion, commitment, and inspiration we feel in the room will continue to push me, and many others, to return year after year to this incredibly uplifting event.