Imagine the excitement and relief of finishing your first Ironman in the stunning setting of Lake Tahoe. You are slowly walking through the chute, collecting food and hydration, enjoying the overwhelming energy of the crowd and your own sense of accomplishment for finishing this once unthinkable feat. An hour after crossing the line you retrieve your bag of personal items and scroll through a barrage of texts and missed calls. Most of them are notes of encouragement and congratulations but there is one that will break your heart. The person who turned your life around over the past eighteen months has just died from a brain tumor. She watched you finish the race from her hospital room and then she closed her eyes and slipped away. You didn’t even know about the tumor. She had wanted to protect you from the pain and make sure you reached the finish line.
This is the story of Jayson Williams’ first Ironman in September 2015. After receiving the tragic news, he dropped to the ground in the middle of the food tent and lost it in front of hundreds of people. The close friend who had died was supposed to be competing in this triathlon with him. Shortly after New Years 2014 she had confronted Williams and told him, “We need you to be healthy.” But she didn’t just have the message; she also had a plan. She had signed him up for Ironman Hawai’i 70.3, she would be his coach, and he had four months to prepare for the event. Williams laughed in her face. He had been a collegiate soccer and volleyball player at the University of Georgia but it had been years since he has swum or biked. And yet he followed her direction, lost 80 lbs in the process, finished the half Ironman in 5:49, and felt amazing.
We all have stories of losing friends and family members to cancer and we often tell these stories to console others or and bond around the shared experiences. But this was not enough for Jayson. He quickly decided to honor his friend’s memory and the way she had changed his own life by getting involved with the F*ck Cancer organization. Today he leads their triathlon team and is growing the group at a fantastic clip.
F*ck Cancer was founded in 2007 by Brandon McGuinness, who battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma from 2004 to 2007. McGuinness launched the organization as a way to support the individuals who are affected by cancer, as well as their families. Today, the F*ck Cancer is led by his cousin, Mugs McGuiness, and dear friend, Brandon Ward, and the organization’s efforts are focused on three areas; promoting cancer prevention awareness, helping families pay medical bills, and allowing terminally ill patients to live out their dreams. The latter effort is through the Dyin to Live campaign and it is similar to the more widely known Make A Wish Foundation, which focuses on children battling cancer.
“We are sorry if you are offended or have a problem with the word f*ck. We are offended and have a problem with the word CANCER.”
Last August Williams decided to launch the F*ck Cancer Triathlon Team and after one day of promotions, he had 175 people signed up. Each individual must raise $350 in the calendar year. This reasonable and obtainable goal allows many to get involved and that has been reflected in how quickly the group has grown. Heather Jackson, a professional triathlete and the recent winner of Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga, got involved with the F*ck Cancer Triathlon Team in September of last year and soon after Williams had another 200 members sign up. Today the group boasts over 400 members and is represented in ten different countries.
Through the Red Truck partnership, F*ck Cancer Triathlon Team members are able to utilize their high-quality used gear in reaching their annual $350 fundraising goal. Members are encouraged to sell their gear on Red Truck, where they can choose to direct anywhere from 5% to 90% of the sale price to their individual F*ck Cancer fundraiser. Additionally, these athletes are able to share the stories of their gear and pass along memories to the next owner, creating a community of encouragement and support.
In today’s busy society it can be difficult to make the jump between wanting to give back and being able to take action. As a father and husband with a full-time job as a clinical engineer for a Cardiac Rhythm Management company, Williams understands that enabling people to make a difference is crucial. Through the triathlon team, individuals are able to find a community, participate in a sport that they enjoy, and serve a greater good through their efforts. Williams has been overwhelmed by the generous support of his Tri Team sponsors, and he believes the Red Truck platform will serve as one more way for individuals to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients.