New York City, NY
Breast cancer co-survivor since 1996
Co-survivor for: His mother, Jo Carol Williamson
Relationship Manager at Pershing LLC — A Bank of New York Mellon Affiliate
What does being a Co-survivor mean to you?
If you asked me what labels I would give myself, I would say I am a runner, a marathoner, a triathlete, a graduate student, a working professional. And then there is the label that has affected me the most — a co-survivor of cancer. Some labels we chose; others are thrust upon us. Like countless others, the label of co-survivor was thrust upon me. But ironically and painfully, that forced label, in one way or another, has shaped all the other labels I proudly give myself today.
My passion began on a middle school track in Indiana. At the age of ten, running was about speed and competition. That was of course until my mom was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. Then running became something more. When she was diagnosed, her doctors gave her a 20 percent chance of survival. But my mom was a fighter, and no doctor was going to determine her fate. After three years of experimental chemotherapy and intense radiation, she beat the odds and was cancer free. Upon winning her battle, my mom asked if I would do something with her. Susan G. Komen's Race for the Cure was coming to Indianapolis, and my mom wanted me to celebrate her victory over cancer by running the race for her. Suddenly, running was more than just about the ego of a 14-year-old boy. It was about honoring my mom, supporting all the others who had fought before her, raising awareness for a cause, being a part of something bigger.
So I agreed. I ran the 3.1 miles.
Six months later, my mom's cancer returned. And although she once again battled valiantly, this time she would not succeed. But I kept running. Running for my mom, running for her memory, running for the cause. After all, the co-survivor label was now attached.
Being a co-survivor instilled in me a drive to move forward, both in running and in life. A 5K run became a marathon, a bike ride, a swim, a triathlon. High school became college, graduate school, a career. In everything I do, I strive to hold to the agreement I made those many years ago with my mom — to celebrate her, to run the race for her. Although I know she never wished for the co-survivor label to be thrust upon me, I also know she would be very proud of the labels I have since chosen.
I hope others in my situation can also hold their heads up knowing that their loved one, their survivor, fought valiantly against the odds in their battle with cancer. As we know, the battle with cancer is not only fought by the diagnosed but also by their loved ones, their husbands and wives, their children, their parents, and their friends. Never stop fighting.
The photo: Jack chose to be photographed biking.