“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”- Edith Lovejoy Pierce
Jack at the walk.
New beginnings. Isn’t that what the New Year is all about? A new beginning? A chance to try something new this year, set new goals, meet new people. 2014 is almost here and I am more ready than ever. Last year, I wrote these words: “By tomorrow, 2012 will be just a distant memory. But I will not forget this past year that quickly. It was the year my sister fought her battle with colon cancer. And won. Boom!”
2012 was a hellish beginning to the New Year. Charlotte had just begun her chemo treatments for colon cancer. We were running around, picking Jack up from pre-school, watching Eleanor, cooking for Charlotte, driving her to chemo. It was a tough beginning to 2012 for all of us. By July of 2012, she was done with chemo. She had won. She started coming back to the gym. She started to gain weight again. She started smiling again. Really smiling.
She participated in the Susan Cohan Colon Cancer walk….we all did. Jack wore a sign that read “My mom is a cancer survivor.” The nightmare was over. “Next year,” she told me, “I am running it.”
2012 made us aware of who we really were as a family. We pulled together. We spent real quality time together. We remembered that the only things that really matter in life is family.
Charlotte at her Cancer to 5K run.
2013 started off on a great note. Charlotte and I registered for the Ulman Fund Triathlon, a 0.9 mile swim, 25 mile bike and 6.5 mile run. Why the hell we thought this was a good idea is beyond me….neither one of us could swim and I had not run in almost 5 years. Charlotte had never been a runner either. But she had volunteered at the last one and was determined to do it this year. “Oh, I’m doing it,” she said. And that was that.
She joined the Cancer to 5K Ulman Fund Running Group and discovered that not only did she love to run, but she was good at it. Really good. She ran circles around me.
My business continued to grow in 2012. I made the tough decision to resign from the dance company after my concert in April and concentrate solely on the gym. I had a good two seasons with the company and had proven to myself that strength training really was the cure for my back issues.
The Baltimore's Women Classic 2013
Charlotte and I ran the Baltimore’s Women Classic in June and she ended up sprinting to the finish line yelling for me to “Punch it!” as she darted ahead of me. Damn, I thought, she is fast. This triathlon is going to be a breeze.
A week later, I had a mole removed from my neck that my dermatologist thought looked suspicious. The following week, I went in for a check up with the plastic surgeon who had removed the mole and was told all was well. It had been a basal cell carcinoma but all was well, they had removed it so there was nothing to worry about. Until I got a phone call the next day from the plastic surgeon and was told that there had been a mix up in the lab and it had NOT been a basal cell carcinoma. It had been melanoma. “I don’t think it has spread,” he said to me. I am sitting down while he is talking and all I can think about is my mother. Just what she needs to hear. “By the way, Mrs. Giza, your other daughter now has cancer.” The next thing I know, I am scheduling a second surgery to make sure everything had been removed. Surgery goes well and I am in the clear. Check. However, a week later, Charlotte goes in for a scan. And it’s not good news. Prior to the scan, she was already starting to feel sick again. Nothing too bad, but not the usual symptoms. Her PET scan lights up. She is diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer. It’s back. After a year of clean scans, it’s back. Uncheck.
First day of treatment.
July 2013 might as well have been the start of our New Year because I honestly do not remember anything prior to my surgery and Charlotte’s re-diagnosis.
She started chemo treatments again in August and she will be done the end of January. The only “good” thing about this diagnosis this time is that we all know what to expect from the treatments. We quickly pulled together and created our schedules in regards to the kids – pick ups, drop offs, weekends at Emmy’s. Charlotte’s neighbor set up a meal train website so people could make meals for Charlotte and Rick and the kids each week. We had gone through this once before. We could do it again.
Charm City Strongwoman 2013
During this time, I am quickly gearing up for the 2nd Annual Charm City Strongwoman Contests, one of the biggest Strongwoman Contests ever. The contest is to benefit the Susan Cohan Colon Cancer Foundation. Last year, we had 20 women compete, and we thought that was awesome. This year, we had 43 women compete. 43.
We raised over $6000 for the Susan Cohan Colon Cancer Foundation through donations, registrations and sponsorships. It was one of the greatest days of 2013. Charlotte was there to see it all. A day to be remembered by everyone.
In October, Charlotte and I ran the Ulman Fund Triathlon. We had already decided back in June, before her diagnosis, that we would do the tri as a relay. Charlotte realized she just did not have the time to train for the full race so we opted for the the relay. We asked one of my members who was a swimmer in college to to do the swim portion. I would bike and Charlotte would run.
Then her diagnosis happened. Enter Plan B. Ricky wanted to now participate so we shuffled things around and decided that I would either A. Run the race with Charlotte B.Walk/Run the race with Charlotte or C. Run the race myself. Choice C was never really going to happen because really, any way you looked at it, Charlotte was doing that damn triathlon.
And run she did. Five days after her long chemo treatment (a six hour day that leaves her wiped out for four days), she and I were out there on the 6.5 mile course, running. In the hot October sun. Not walking. Running. I believed in the power of will that day.
At the meet with one of my members, Susan Clayton.
A week after the race, I competed in my first push/pull Powerlifting meet. Although my numbers may not be dramatic by any means (I finished with a 115# bench), for someone who danced her whole life and never, ever thought this would become such an important part of her life, it was a damn good day. It felt wonderful to be nervous in front of people in a different way other than on a stage dancing. I loved performing. Even at a powerlifting meet, you are still performing for an audience.
You have trained. You have practiced your lifts. You have thought about the cues. You have prepared to do your best. Then you get three chances to prove yourself. And everyone is right behind you, cheering you on. The strength world is extremely generous and giving. Everyone wants everyone else to do a good job. I truly love what I do.
This year, I turned 39 years old. I kept wishing it was the year I turned 40 but I have to wait a whole other year for that big day. And I hope to celebrate this one with my sister, healthy and chemo free. I am looking forward to moving into a new decade. Another chance for a new beginning.
Flippin' tires at Mike's.
Now the holidays are here. Christmas has come and gone and the New Year is right around the corner. So what am looking forward to this year? What are my goals? Well, I still want to get that bodyweight bench so I’ll keep working on that. We are expanding the gym which means more work, more members and more chances to make a difference in people’s lives.
I plan on spending even more time with El and Jack.
Me and my Diego.
Diego and I will have been together 10 years this coming June, married for 9 years. He is the love of my life, my biggest fan and at times, the biggest pain in my butt. But I would not be where I am today without his support and love and encouragement. I am a better woman for having met him and falling in love with him. Together, we make a pretty damn good team.
It will be a new year to grow and develop as a coach, business owner, wife, sister, aunt and daughter. It will be a year to continue to see the glass as half full, not half empty. Life did throw us a curve ball this past year. But we caught it. And we are throwing it back.
Happy New Year. This year, be the best person you can be. Be kind. Be nice. Be generous with your smiles, your hugs, your words. Be sincere. Be honest. Be forgiving. Be compassionate. Be a friend. Be your best.
2014!!!! Happy New Year!