Thursday, October 18, 2012

LIVESTRONG in Montreal

I don't even know where to begin. I guess from the beginning, I have gotten more than I could ever ask for from The Lance Armstrong Foundation's LIVESTRONG programs. I have had the pleasure of going through their LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program as well as their Cancer Transitions: Moving Beyond Treatment program. I decided that because I had gotten so much out of their programs that I needed to let them know just how much they had done for me. My original plan was to email them but for the life of me I couldn't find an email address so I decided what better way then to really get my point across then to write an old fashioned thank you letter I even included a before and after picture of myself as I had lost 75lbs due to their programs.

Once the letter was received I got an email from their Community Program Manager Jordan Parks telling me how excited they were to receive my letter and that although they get feedback from people through surveys they are all anonymous so they never get to talk to them. They even sent me a package full of amazing LIVESTRONG stuff...
A little while later I got another email from Jordan asking me if I would be their guest at an event in Montreal where they would be officially announcing the Cancer Transitions program. They wanted me to speak at the event and share my story with the audience. I was thrilled on so many levels. I had never been to Montreal, I was going to get to share my story and be able to tell everyone about this fantastic program all at the same time. I was a little nervous because I would be going by myself but I knew it would be fine and be worth it.

So on August 28th, 2012 I flew from Boston to Montreal. It really was a few first for me, my first time in Montreal, my first time taking a cab from the airport (I know shocking), my first time some where that English isn't the primary language and my first time speaking in front of that many people. After riding in the cab for what seemed like eternity we arrived in front of a beautiful hotel.
The Hotel Intercontinental was amazing! It even has a little shopping/dining area withing the hotel which I thought was amazing! After checking in I went and wandered around for a little bit and of course got some lunch. The proved to be some what difficult not really being able to read french despite all the years I took it middle school and high school. Around 3pm Jordan and I met to go over what would be happening that night. The funny thing is that while walking to The Westin Hotel where the event would be held we ran into other people from LIVESTRONG and all of them knew me by name, I was very flattered but also surprised.  Once there I got to go see the space and we did a little run down of how things were going to go. That was when I learned that not only was I speaking but it was going to be in front of 300+ people, Doug Ulman the CEO of LIVESTRONG was going to introducing me and Lance Armstrong was going to be there. Let me tell you if I wasn't nervous before I certainly was after that. We worked everything out for the night and decided to meet back at the Westin at 6:30pm.

I went back to my room and vegged out a little before getting ready and heading over there. I also got to meet Ivy who co-wrote the Cancer Transtions program so that was fun too. Once there we got our tickets and got to just mingle around.

I felt a little out of place cause I didn't really know anyone but at least the food was good and everyone that I did meet happened to be really nice! Then I got to go into the "green room" where I met Doug Ulman so we could talk about what he was going to say when he introduced me so he wouldn't give away too much. Then I met some of the panelists that were going to be on stage. Sarah Cook was one of them who was a pediatric cancer survivor but now she is also big advocate for other pediatric cancer patients and survivors. I also met Gwen Andrews Nacos who is the director and founder of Cedars Cansupport. Both of these ladies were amazing and made me feel right at home! I got to have my picture taken too...
L to R: Jordan, Ivy, Sarah and I (photo provided by

It was great to meet so many people affected by cancer and doing such amazing things with it. I of course also got to meet Lance Armstrong which I have to admit I was thrilled about. I think what he has done (with lots of help from LAF and LIVESTRONG supporters) for cancer survivors is absolutely amazing!

(photo provided by
Then came show time. I have to be honest that I hadn't really prepared a speech so to speak I a really had was bullets of things I wanted to talk about. It is is much easier to share your story cause you know it! Had I written a speech I would have been more than happy to include it. If by some chance there ever happens to be video of it that pops up I will be sure to post it. As I sat waiting I listened to everyone speak. Then Doug took the stage

and started to talk about me at which point I am almost certain I must have turned scarlet red. As I got up to go on stage you have to know the only thought going through my head was, 'Don't trip.' Luckily I did not trip. As I took the podium I was all of a sudden really calm and so I began to speak.
(photo provided by
When I finished Doug gave me a hug and I went back to my seat. And no in case you were all wondering I did not trip coming off the stage either. They invited Cary, Sarah, Lance, Princess Dina and Gwen all up to take their seats on the stage.
The great thing about this panel is all the questions came from the audience. It was a fantastic experience!

After it was the complete opposite than what it was earlier in the night. Everyone knew who I was! I was trying to make my way back to the green room because that's where I thought I was supposed to be. But I kept getting stopped by people. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. The people stopping me were telling me their story and sharing how hearing about me had inspired them and how much they were looking forward to Cancer Transitions. I love that I was able to help some many that in itself was so rewarding! I did finally make it back to the green room where I got to meet Sarah's family who were great as well as a number of other people. Jordan did finally find me and asked if I would join all the LIVESTRONG people back at the hotel. I of course said yes.

After changing I headed down to their hospitality room and was greeted warmly by everyone there. It was fantastic to be able to sit with so many people. I got to talk to all the people who worked at LIVESTRONG and  hear more about what they do and things they are working on. One of the girls Rebekkah had just gone back Austin for a day and then she flew to Montreal for the week and was then flying to Peru (I think I might have gotten that wrong) all to help spread LIVESTRONG all over the world.

It's funny because I know for myself when I think about everyone that works for The Lance Armstrong Foundation you hold them in a higher regard almost celebrity status. It was great to be able to spend this more personal time with them including Lance. It makes you remember that they are all just people too. Doug told me a great story about his daughter learning to swim and hearing about others stories was just so much fun. I ended up going to bed around 2:30 am that night and it was well worth it!

The next day I got some time to explore Montreal. I was able to find what I considered to be "Downtown" Montreal which really just meant I found all the shopping,
four story mall with 4 separate equally large wings
A beautiful Cathedral Church
A fantastic stone sculpture in the park.
This trip to Monteal is one that I will not soon forget. I am so happy that I was able to help so many people touched by cancer as well as help support a program that I truely believe should automatically be part of every cancer patients treatment. As soon as you are done you go right into Cancer Transitions: Moving Beyond Treatment!

I also can't thank everyone enough at The Lance Armstrong Foundation for everything that they do, for having such fantastic programs through LIVESTRONG and of course for not only giving me this opportunity but also making me feel right at home the whole time!

1 comment:

  1. Alyson,
    We enjoyed your post . . . BBC Radio has had a lot of people coming on air recently talking about Lance’s reputation and the doping allegations and I wondered if you’d be interested in helping us balance it up and speaking to BBC Radio about the positive side of Livestrong and just what it has meant for you in your cancer fight?

    I’m thinking about a recorded interview maybe today (Saturday) or tomorrow (Sunday).

    I’m on +44 203 61 43 800 if you want to call.

    Or e-Mail

    Paul Coletti
    BBC World Service Radio