I received this email from Jim Lafferty, my co-founder for TBR Dream Marathon and one of my mentors in running and in life. As I’ve mentioned in the past, Jim is a huge believer in Youth Juice (no, he doesn’t own it nor is he a distributor of it and neither am I) and he shares this poignant story about a female runner named Uche, her challenges in life and how she faced them head on:
As you know, I moved from Manila to Lagos, Nigeria, in early 2010 to take a CEO role with Coca Cola.
Nigeria is also a developing market, and one of the “hot spots” of the global economy, yet FAR behind Philippines in many respects, including development of a running community. Despite some success in the Olympics in sprinting, typically the West Africans have not developed the kind of distance running pedigree of the east Africans. But the talent is there, like Philippines!
Soon after my arrival, I got into coaching and built a local team in Lagos, including key runners from the Women’s national team. These women, I can tell you, are real icons. They get zero support or funding–it all goes to sprinters. They are college educated, professional women—bankers, marketers, procurement officers. They work long hours, and train in what CNN Called “the worst city in the world to live in”. NO parks. No sidewalks. Dangerous roads. Extreme heat and humidity. Dodging cars, bikes, bodies (yes bodies!), rats, you name it. They are so inspiring.
One of the women runners, a 3:30 marathoner who also works for one of the top oil companies, was running with us one day in June this year. She is a quiet, but forceful personality. Keeps to herself a bit. Incredibly talented in so many things, and also a pillar of ethics in a tough environment for this. We stop for a road crossing about 7 miles into our Saturday long run, and she says to me: “Jim can we talk. I have some ‘female’ issues and it seems I have a fibroid tumour in my ovary and uterus. I want to go to the US to see a doctor there. What do you think I should do?”
Now realize this is a 32 year old, world class runner, top health, and takes good care of herself. She is single, beautiful, vivacious, about as special a person that exists. It was shocking, not only to hear her having such an issue, but I was humbled she would talk to me about it.
I told her it was probably a good idea to go to the US. I had seen some of the “best” Nigerian health care and it was concerning to say the least. So a few weeks later she went off to the US—AFTER finishing a strong second in an open women’s 5 kms race, narrowly losing to the national record holder by a few seconds!
She had her tests, and wrote me a note. Sure enough, she did have a fibroid tumour in her ovary. But when they opened her up, they also found COLON CANCER, stage 4, which had spread outside the Colon into surrounding tissues. So they had to extend the surgery to take the cancer out. And then lots of rehab time until the chemotherapy starts.
I cannot tell you all the things, all the questions that went through my head to get this news. But some big ones.
—How tough a human are we talking about? I think I am tough, I am nothing compared to her. She ran with stage 4 cancer and came in SECOND in a 500 woman open 5 kms race in the largest country in Africa! And she was hurting all the way. I struggle with pain being healthy in a 5 KMS race. She redefines mental toughness.
—Where is the fairness in life? She is single, 32, healthy, did everything right. She has her whole life in front of her. How fair is this? To have a cancer so advanced that the survival rate is quoted at 8-15% maximum.
—How long did she ignore those early symptoms? When it was “something funny” and before it became so advanced? Do we all sometimes ignore the little signs we should not?
We were able to get her into the MD ANDERSON Medical Center, one of the world’s top Cancer Centers. They gave her a “Pre Chemo” protocol and she sent it to me. It had a listing of vitamins to boost her immune system, like CQ-10, Vitamin C and E. But then the shocker of them all–THE DOCTOR WROE OUT THAT SHE SHOULD TAKE DOUBLE DOSES OF YOUTH JUICE EACH DAY! That’s right. Apparently MD ANDERSON has done several trials on Youth Juice and they now make it a part of all their cancer protocols. That’s right. The very product you talked about last year, the product that you can find in S+R, is a key part of a cancer treatment. Imagine how it can help healthy people stay healthy?
Uche (that’s her name) is still in Chemo now, and we will see. I am convinced she will be in the 8-15% who survive and thrive. Someone has to be in the 8% so why not her? I think she will be back, and running competitively again. And her role modeling will only be bigger for it. She will touch more lives.
Its a story with a learning for all of us. To count our blessings. To never take health for granted. Don’t ignore ANY warning signs. And to take good preventive measures like our vitamins and Youth Juice. Its a small price to pay to be healthy.