Olympic Distance Triathlon for Leukemia

Monica's face (in the center giving the salute) shows her stoke as she begins the race.

To all of you who gave me support on so many levels,

This experience of doing a triathlon to raise money for the leukemia lymphoma society has been life changing – I am struggling to know what to write because there are so many things I could say or write.

For one, it has been a celebration of God’s healing in my own body.  For those of you who don’t know, on Feb. 13th, 1995 I was diagnosed with a childhood form of leukemia.  While I was blessed enough to be in remission after one month of chemo, I had to endure two and a half years of intensive chemotherapy to ensure the cancer would not ever come back (and praise God it hasn’t come back in over 15 years!!!).

One of the hardest times during treatment was one night at my grandparents’ house.   During the daytime, the doctors took me off of a horrible medication called prednisone which made me very irritable.  However, while prednisone was a horrible medication to take, it covered the unbearable pain I experienced from another chemo drug called vincristine.  Vincristine deteriorated all of my muscles to the point I could not walk.  But that was just the beginning of a horrible night.  Later that night, after my mother essentially carried her 14-year-old daughter up the stairs,   I had to witness my grandparents and mother at my bedside as I complained about my agonizing pain and see them hurt because there was nothing they could do to take away the pain.  However, instead of crying they spend the entire night kneeling at my bed and praying for me.  Finally, at about 5 in the morning the pain subsided.  An hour later Good Morning America came on and their theme song was, “Love will save the Day” by Desiree – which is so true because it was God’s love and my mother’s/grandparents love that saved me that night!

Honestly, until I just wrote the previous paragraph, I have never admitted to anyone that was one of worst nights of my life…..So….that night at my grandparents – couldn’t walk…..

However, this past Sunday April 25, 2010, not only could I walk, but I participated in an Olympic Distance Triathlon on behalf of the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society!!!!!!  The swim started at beach next to a tourist hotspot called the Pier.  The fact that the swim started there was so incredible for me because before I had Leukemia, my grandparents used to take my brother and I to the Pier to eat buffalo wings!  So, even though my grandparents were not healthy enough to come see my in the race, in a way they were there by the fact that the race started a place that represents joy to me.  That was just cool.

The swim itself was actually fine – although the water was quite choppy so had to alter the course was altered for us a little bit.  I am slow swimmer but thanks to the AMAZING Leukemia Lymphoma Society Team in Training coaches I can now actually do a free style stroke, which I wasn’t able to do before.  I think the most important lesson I have learned through training for the swim portion particularly is something that is applicable both in swimming in the ocean and in life: to stay afloat and on course in life you need to breathe first before anything else.

My favorite part of the event was after I finished the swim in the bay and heard my mother screaming “Way to go Monica”.  If it wasn’t for her support that horrific night during treatment, there is no way I would have been able to finish that swim.

After the swim was the bike ride……..which was fine but WINDY!  Not too much really happened there, except that close to the end of the ride I saw my father smiling ear to ear encouraging me on which was AWESOME.   As for the run, that was where I really lost a lot of time – but you know what bottom line I finished with both of my parents and several of my fellow team in training mates at the finish line!

So overall, it was a sweet weekend – I still have a long way to go but it is a great new beginning – but, I felt it was a way to honor my parents for their love saving me.  Also, and most importantly, I was able to do this race in honor of Brad Henderson, a sweet friend of mine from college who passed away due to complications from another of leukemia in college.  So, thank you, for your support on so many levels!  Without your help, this wouldn’t have been possible!  Be blessed!

Much love,
Monica Bestawros

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