If you know Chuze Fitness, you know family is near and dear to our hearts—and by family we mean you, our members and team members that make this fitness brand a home. In this blog, we are extremely honored to feature a very special story by Chuze’s own Vice President of Fitness, Ani Oksayan. Read on for a story of her family’s struggle and survival in the face of cancer and their collaboration with the Hirshberg Foundation, written by Ani herself.
If you are interested in supporting this crucial cause, we kindly ask that you consider a donation towards Pancreatic Cancer Research, or participate in Ani’s L.A. Cancer Challenge fundraising team, Ida’s Angles, this Sunday, Oct 25th, 2020, for a virtual 5k walk (or run!).
My Mom was definitely not supposed to get cancer. The thought was impossible and unreal. This strong, beautiful woman who lived each day focused intently on taking care of her family, offering unwavering support and strength and functioning as the glue that held everything together; the possibility of her being seriously ill was unthinkable. And yet… the week between Christmas and New Years of 2016, the unthinkable became our reality.
My brother and I hit the parental jackpot when we were chosen to be Mine’s children (Mimi as she was lovingly named by her first grandson). What do you learn from a woman who uproots her life and moves across state simply to be near her grandchildren? Or caters to every need, desire and whim of her 94-year-old live-in parents? Or drops anything, anytime to simply listen, offer advice, help navigate the difficulties of my single motherhood, be a second mom to all three of her young grandsons, work hand in hand with my father for 49 years (and going strong) to build a beautiful life for her kids? The list is endless. You learn selflessness, generosity, patience and a knack for rolling up your sleeves and diving in no matter the size of the obstacle. Because that is what she did with her cancer and boy was it an obstacle—the grand-daddy of obstacles. She rolled up her sleeves, dove in to face her battle head on and the only option was and is recovery. And yes, that truly is her mindset—the only option is conquering the beast in her pancreas and getting on with her life.
A few weeks in, I asked her if she was scared and if she cried about her diagnosis yet—I’m not positive she answered me 100% honestly because, true to form, she was more focused on my emotional well-being than her own. But her answer was “NO!!!!” She rolled her eyes and said she was, however, terribly annoyed with cancer for causing this inconvenience and pause in her daily routine. We both laughed long and hard at her response. And I was yet again, overwhelmed but not surprised, by her strength, commitment to getting better and overall warrior attitude.
We rallied as a family, of course; we were close, but became even closer. Her friends and family mobilized, taking time away from their own lives to travel across the state and even internationally to visit and offer support. The most heartbreaking part of this story is that my Aunt, who took a surprise trip from Canada right before my mom’s surgery just to give her a hug is the same beloved Aunt who would succumb to pancreatic cancer just two years later. We didn’t know it at the time.
My family connected with The Hirshberg Foundation less than a week after diagnosis. What would we have done without this source of information and support connecting us with others fighting the same fight and emerging victorious? How would we have navigated this unthinkable happening without having them on the line with us, patiently listening to us cry or ask uninformed questions? Where would we be if they hadn’t connected us with the life saving medical team at UCLA—her doctors appearing to us as superheroes wearing capes in the form of lab coats? I don’t have to wonder about any of this because they WERE there for us, every step of the way. And almost 4 years past this nightmare, they are still there for us with support, love, friendship and grace. We are connected with the Hirshberg Foundation through various events; some for fundraising, some for informational purposes and others just simply for community, connection and support. This year has certainly made the events interesting; we are virtual instead of in-person but the purpose and drive is as strong as ever.
On Oct 25th, the Los Angeles Cancer Challenge 5K, historically on the beautiful campus of UCLA, will be virtual for the first time ever. My family and I have participated in this event for 4 years now and I am proud to be an Ambassador for the LACC this year, fundraising for this cause that is near and dear to my heart. Even more cool is that this year, MY MOM will be the official Race Starter. Sidenote, my mom is shy. And DOES NOT do public speaking. The joke at the Foundation is that thanks to Covid, the only way they could ever get her to speak to thousands of people is to have her start a virtual event via pre-recorded video. See, silver lining to everything, even this uber-weird year.
So, we will walk on Sunday the 25th in San Marcos, CA. My mom, dad, brother, sister in law, two nephews, son, and boyfriend and a really cool dog named Taco. We will walk five kilometers, dressed in our purple shirts, coffees in hand, in honor of my mom. In honor of my Aunt. In honor of the countless heroes fighting the fight against Pancreatic Cancer. And how amazing it would be if you joined us from wherever you are. Join our Team, Ida’s Angels and walk in your neighborhood, with your loved ones and your cool dogs, and raise awareness for this deadly disease. Or simply consider a Donation towards the fight against Pancreatic Cancer. It’s been a rough year, so anything that is comfortable for you is appreciated. I thank you, my family thanks you, Chuze Fitness, the Hirshberg Foundation and every patient and family affected by this horrendous disease thanks you for your generosity and consideration.
Please be well and take good care of yourselves and your loved ones.
Ani OksayanVice President of FitnessChuze Fitness