They say that certain people come into our lives for a reason. From entering the Navy’s rigorous, high attrition rate Dive School program; to challenging myself with endurance events; to joining the Athleta community; I’ve seen many inspiring people enter into my life.
One person who has inspired me far more than many I’ve met has never graduated from a rigorous military program, done a 5K, or conquered an endurance event. Yet to me, her name is synonymous with the spirit of ‘Power to the She.’ She inspires me beyond words, and her reminder to Never Ever Give Up (NEGU) gives me that kick in the pants when I need it. Her name – Mya Lin Terry. Her age – ten.
I met Mya in 2007. I was picking my daughter up from Kindergarten one afternoon and Mya, my daughter, and another little girl came running up to me with such confidence and excitement to perform as this all-girl singing group. I watched in amazement as Mya’s confidence spilled over into my own super shy daughter. Watching them perform I remembered thinking, “Who IS this little girl, hand on her hip and bigger than life, who could just inspire my daughter like that?” Well little did I know that this girl would grow to become one of my biggest inspirations.
In the Fall of 2007, Mya was diagnosed with cancer – an aggressive form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Her mom began an online journal that would soon touch the lives of thousands of people who became inspired by Mya’s courage and determination to beat cancer. We read in horror as the chemo to treat Mya cleared her of the lymphoma, but two years later caused her second cancer – Acute Myloid Leukemia. We cheered as Mya once again stared cancer in the face and showed it that she wasn’t afraid to fight like a girl.
Her NEGU motto became our motto. We watched as her strength, courage, and determination allowed her to never once feel sorry for herself as she conquered not one, not two, but THREE relapses. All while battling back from three major organ failures, and surviving a fungal infection that only 1% of the population survives. In between relapses, Mya inspired so many by living life to the fullest, serving as St Jude’s spokesperson, designing jewelry, serving as guest chef at several restaurants, writing and publishing a book used by doctors to ease the anxiety of pediatric patients, selling girl scout cookies, playing soccer, swimming with dolphins, rock climbing, surfing, spearheading such philanthropic efforts as Mya’s Mommy Bags (complimentary bag of supplies for families whose pediatric warriors are hospitalized), and the ‘Mya Sent Me — Pay it Forward/Random Acts of Kindness movement.
I know if Mya ever decided to do her first triathlon, 5K, mud run, or whatever she put her mind to, she would be one of the most inspiring athletes to grace the field. Unfortunately, the world will never see Mya race. On April 10, 2013, thousands were heartbroken to learn that after a hard fought five-and-one-half year battle, Mya “earned her angel’s wings.”
The Mya (fundraising) bracelets that I wore throughout her battle mean even more to me now. When I ran the Athleta Iron Girl Half Marathon, I pinned a purple ribbon (Mya’s favorite color) onto my race number, and proudly wore my Mya bracelets. I also recently completed my first mud run of the season – a Maryland Warrior Dash, and of course, wore my Mya bracelets. Who knew that Maryland was such a heinously hilly place! The hills in both events were a bit of a challenge, and whenever I’m challenged, I don’t give up. Instead, I latch onto something that just keeps me putting one foot in front of the other. For both events, the “motivating mantra” that I chanted over and over to push myself up the hills was “Mya.”
Regardless of the fact that MD’s hills had tried turning my legs into Jell-o, I chanted “Mya” over and over and found the determination to NEGU by digging deeper and pushing harder. Not only did I NEGU during either event, but I ran my personal best during the half marathon, and scored well enough in the Warrior Dash to earn one of the metal award helmets.
During her short time on earth, Mya seemed to fight harder than most, and seemed to make the most of each day given to her. She has inspired me to cherish the time I have with my children, to continue to try to live life to the fullest, and on those occasions when I need that swift kick, to not feel sorry for myself when life doesn’t seem to go my way. She is my one of my biggest energies of inspiration and one of my reminders to NEGU. More importantly, she has inspired my children. Just as she inspired my daughter back in Kindergarten to find her confidence, she has shown my daughter what it means to fight like a girl, and has shown my children how to fight for something when the decision is made to NEGU.
The Mya Lin Terry Foundation has been established in Mya’s honor and will carry forth her legacy. (Please note that the site is still under construction.) The second annual ‘Mya’s Run for the Gold’ 5k will take place on Sunday, September 8, 2013, in Mya’s Jersey Shore hometown — Ocean Township, New Jersey.