Honoring Family by Running for Team LIVESTRONG

Jun 4, 2016 8:00 AM ET

Honoring Family by Running for Team LIVESTRONG

Today is National Running Day. There are many reasons to celebrate running – exercise, health benefits and community. At LIVESTRONG we celebrate today to highlight why members of Team LIVESTRONG are running to raise money for our programs and services. Meet Eric Barsema, member of Team LIVESTRONG New York City Marathon. Eric will be running and raising funds for LIVESTRONG in honor of his father-in-law and grandmother who both passed away on April 18th of this year from cancer. If running is part of your life and cancer is part of your life, then we hope that you will celebrate and register for a Team LIVESTRONG event today.

How have you been affected by cancer?

In January of this year, instead of focusing all attention towards my daughter’s fifth birthday party, we received the shocking news, seemingly out of left field, that my father-in-law had widespread cancer. Since that initial diagnosis, dad painfully visited multiple hospitals, rehab centers and went through countless treatments over a few months. On March 1st, my grandma broke her hip and ribs, and fractured her back when she fell down in her own house. Numerous procedures and tests later, turns out her lung cancer had spread to her brain. While one was being treated in Tampa, Florida and the other on the opposite coast in Lake Tahoe, California, both dad and grandma passed away within an hour of one another on April 18th.

Why did you choose to join Team LIVESTRONG?

Understandably, the virtually coinciding news of my father-in-law and grandma’s cancer diagnosis shook our family pretty hard. During such a challenging and emotional time, one of the few things that helped lift our spirits was the compassionate care from their nursing staff and the comprehensive support programs offered to them and our family. The level of care they received was simply inspiring. While there are many wonderful cancer-related organizations out there that strictly focus on cancer research, I was personally drawn to Team LIVESTRONG based on their mission to help cancer patients and survivors NOW. Cancer is obviously terrifying for not only the patient, but their loved ones as well. Organizations like LIVESTRONG that provide direct services, resources and support for these families currently battling cancer is just so needed. In thinking about an organization to support, I was immediately hooked after reading their “manifesto” online. It’s an honor and a privilege to play a small role for such a powerful team.

Why are you running in the TCS New York City Marathon?

Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I LOVE running. On good days, bad days, sad days and happy days, there is just something about running that takes me to a place of pure joy. I personally wanted to do something meaningful to honor and remember these special people who have forever touched my life. Something special that reflected who I am, while carrying on their memory forever. What better way than to participate in the world’s largest marathon in their memory – all the while raising support for such a worthy cause.

What does LIVESTRONG mean to you?

To me, LIVESTRONG is a coordinated team of motivated individuals who share a mission to help cancer patients and survivors throughout their cancer experience. Whether it’s providing emotional support, connecting a community resource or being a part of a team to raise awareness and financial support, I continue to be inspired how LIVESTRONG starts helping people the moment they are diagnosed to after they’ve won the fight. Cancer knows no boundaries. LIVESTRONG is about people coming together from all walks of life to help fight a common enemy.

Share one piece of advice you would give someone affected by cancer?

As hard as it may be, find something each day to laugh or smile about. While cancer takes so much from the patient and family, humor is something that always bonds people together – no matter the circumstances. Even when the journey reaches an all-time low, cancer patients and their families need to understand that it’s ok to also laugh and be happy. There is enough pain and sadness along the way, a few laughs, smiles or sharing of a happy story can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered.