Living Full Throttle for Seventeen Years

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It’s raceday.

Is there a better combination of words in the English language? Doubtful. I found myself smiling during the drive in this morning and it wasn’t just because David Cook was on the iPod and the lyrics over the speakers crooned: “Here we are at the starting line of a race that goes ‘til the end of time… take a long deep breath and I’ll take one too, as the seconds fade and the minutes move…” (From Here to Zero, Digital Vein) Though, that is a great reason to smile. I was actually smiling because no matter how long I do this, it will always seem surreal to me. Every time I arrive at a track in the capacity to cover it, I feel like I’ve won the lottery. This weekend is especially special to me.

img_20160416_132645.jpgSouthern California has always held a very special place in my heart. For the past 12 years, it’s been my favorite place to escape to and I’ve had this strange and inexplicable sense of calm when I touchdown on the left coast.

And for the past 17 years, I’ve been a survivor of Leukemia. If you follow me on social media, you might have seen my post yesterday which was my “diagnosis day anniversary”. It might seem like a strange thing to willingly recall. The day that shattered my world & changed my life. But for me, it’s a celebration of the best kind.

April 16th is a bigger deal to me and my family than my birthday. It was the day, back in 1999, when my own body decided it was going to give up on me. In contrast, my heart, mind and spirit said, “Uhm, no. I don’t think so!”

Of course it wasn’t that simple and it took two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy and setbacks,  but I always looked at my cancer as a really inconvenient obstacle. A tricky chicane, if you will. It was not an end. It was something to conquer. And damn it, I DID. I certainly didn’t do it alone and every year, I get to share my story with more people, I get to help and (hopefully) inspire others to keep fighting through whatever they are facing. It feels weird to even say that, because it was never an intention to be an “inspiration”. I’m just me. I’m just Shay… that blonde girl you run into at the racetrack with big sunglasses and a big-kid smile on her face. But I’ve been told from a lot of people that my openness and perseverance has helped them… and I think that’s a pretty cool thing, if that’s the legacy I get to leave behind.

So thank you. Thank you to every single one of my readers. Without you guys, I couldn’t continue to do this. You are the ones that make the work I do, have relevance. And you have no idea how happy that makes me. You guys inspire ME. It goes both ways. Trust that.

Alright, since I am sitting here in the media center trying to maintain professionalism, I’m gonna sum this up before I fail at choking back my emotions and tears. Let me just end with this – sometimes life throws some really nasty stuff our way, but if I had the chance to go back and never have Leukemia… I wouldn’t. Not even for a second. It sucked, it hurt (in every way a person can hurt) and I would never wish it on another human being. But it’s part of my story. It’s part of my character. It’s part of me. It always will be and I’ll always be astoundingly proud of that part of my life… not the cruddy stuff, but the battle itself. I know I’m capable of literally, anything. And I don’t know that I’d have that strength otherwise.

I’m so overwhelmed by everything this weekend… never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this life. So thank you for letting me have this little moment. I appreciate it.