Friday, April 13, 2012

#404: Please Give to Living Strong at the Y

This is the text of a letter I'm sending to friends and family, asking them to help a fundraising effort that I care deeply about. I hope you will add your contribution to theirs and be a part of the team.

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is turning cancer patients into cancer victors every day. Every one of them has their own story. They might not look it, but they’re the toughest people I’ve ever met.

When they told him he had prostate cancer, he wondered if he would live; if he would ever make love again; if he could ever be a man; if he could be a father to his little girl. Now he’s teaching her to swim.

Sometimes, her breasts hurt so badly when she tried to exercise that she wanted to cry - until the day they asked her to name an achievement she was proud of: “I didn’t let the pain stop me today.”

She’s had cancer three times. She can’t afford the insurance that they offer her. She gets depressed sometimes when she thinks about what will happen if it comes back again. So she’s taking classes to become a personal trainer, so she can help other cancer survivors.

She could barely run 100 yards when they asked her what her dream was and she answered, “I’m almost embarrassed to say it out loud; I want to run a half marathon.” Seven months later, she did it: all 13.1 miles of it. On the back of her shirt she had written, “I run for those who can’t.”

The only thing harder than finding out he had cancer was finding out that his wife had it too. They fought it together. They beat it together. They come to the gym where he complains about every rep and never skips a single one, while she grinds out miles on the bike like a bulldog. Everyone who sees them knows that they are survivors, fighters, and victors.

Thanks to LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, they are learning to fight for their lives. They lift weights and run and swim and practice yoga, Pilates, and Zumba. They learn about nutrition. They meet and come to love others who are fighting the same battle. I know, because I’m one of them.

On April 16, 2010, the doctors found a three inch tumor in my neck. It had spread to my lymph nodes and left me with a 50% chance of survival. I had to choose whether to die or to fight. I decided to fight. I wanted to grow old with my wife. I wanted to act on stage again. And I wanted to run.
This May 6th, I’m returning to the city where I was born and I’m running the Pittsburgh Marathon. You only get one chance to run your first marathon, and I’m doing mine for them. I’m raising money to support LIVESTRONG at the YMCA: the program that taught me to fight. We need to raise about $13,000 to run that program at my YMCA this year. You and I can make that happen.

Please join me. Go to to learn more about my battle. Click the link to “Living Strong at the Y”. Or use the enclosed envelope to mail a check made out to the YMCA to:

Robert Parks Johnson
North Lexington Family YMCA
381 West Loudon Avenue
Lexington KY, 40508

Attention: Living Strong

Give for the fighters; for the victors; for the ones who know they are going to die, and the ones who don’t even know they have cancer yet.

Because cancer can kill us, but it can never beat us: not if we LIVESTRONG.


Robert Parks Johnson
Cancer Fighter

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