Today, I had the privilege of hearing from Barbara Canales at our Texas Business Women luncheon. She shared the story behind the Ready or Not Foundation and her daughter Jackie’s battle to beat brain cancer.
Two moments got me at the gut level.
After the diagnosis, she recalled speaking with the doctor, who’s one of the best in the world at treating pediatric brain cancer. Optimistically, Barbara asked how successful the treatment usually was. The doctor paused, recalling that he’s had ONE similar patient survive more than a few months. Barbara immediately replied that Jackie would be number two. Three years later, she absolutely is. Ready or not, they were going to fight.
She also shared a recent story that inspired me even more. As she recently picked Jackie up from school with a long face, she learned that Jackie hadn’t made the A-team for basketball. The weakness in her left arm made dribbling almost impossible, and competition was tougher in the seventh grade. They discussed their options: playing with only one arm or otherwise adapting. Jackie quietly internalized the reality that her basketball days were over. Understanding her love of the game, I can imagine that would have felt like a crushing defeat.
But Jackie didn’t stay down long. Just a few minutes later, she asked, “Mom, what about swimming?”
Immediately, I remembered a biography I read earlier this year, Running on Faith by Jason Lester. Struck by a speeding car while riding his bicycle as a child, Jason flew 130 feet into the air, breaking twenty bones and paralyzing his right arm. But the story doesn’t end there.
In 2008, Jason Lester became the first person with a disability to finish the Ultraman World Championship alongside able-bodied competitors. With the use of only three limbs, Jason competed in one of the most demanding endurance races in the world, swimming 6.2 miles, biking 261.4 miles, and running 52.4 miles to the finish line. Jason has completed over seventy triathlons, biathlons, marathons, Ironmans, and Ultramans. In 2009, he became the first male triathlete to win an ESPY Award and the fifteenth athlete in the history of Ultraman to complete both the Ultraman World Championship and Ultraman Canada in the same year.
What’s his secret? Duct tape. (He uses it to secure his limp right arm to the rest of his body.)
And an iron will.
I’m pretty sure Jackie Black has one of those too.