ON APRIL 1, 1983, Sharon Robinson would have given anything to hear the words, "April Fools." That day, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease at the age of 23.
A year ago, the Bethesda, Md., resident celebrated her 25th year of being cancer-free. Instead of burying memories of the terrible disease, Robinson, 49, has bravely confronted her cancer. During the past decade, she has spent the majority of her free time helping to raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research, education, and patient services. Here are three lessons any aspiring leader can learn from Robinson's strength and determination to make a difference.
1. Give Back. In 2000, Robinson joined The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program, which, in exchange for fundraising, provides free training to participate in a marathon, triathlon, or century bike ride. She opted for the 100-mile bike ride and has since Fighting Back A cancer survivor shares lessons from the heart. participated in four rides throughout the country, raising more than $20,000 for the society. To celebrate her 18th year of good health, she asked supporters to donate $1 for every mile plus $1 for every year she's been cancer-free. "For $118 dollars, I wrote your name on my leg and we pedaled the miles together," Robinson says.
2. Push Yourself to the Limit. Sure, riding 100 miles in one day might be a breeze for Lance Armstrong, but for the average Joe such a feat takes a hefty dose of courage along with the necessary months of training. Ten to 12 weeks before each century ride, Robinson and teammates met every Saturday at the crack of dawn to prepare for the big day. But such a commitment requires more than sheer physical endurance. Team in Training participants must raise approximately $2,000 to $4,000, depending on the race. Robinson's fundraising efforts have included sending letters to anyone she's crossed paths with over the years? including ex-boyfriends.
3. Appreciate Life. Though it may sound cliché, it's true; Robinson has a new appreciation for life after surviving cancer. And she wants others to feel the same carpe diem joys of simply being alive. "I take the time while I am on the bike trail to say hi to people riding by," Robinson says. "I figure if I can smile and say hi to somebody, maybe it will bring a little happiness."