When it comes to empowering female role models in my life, there are three women in particular who stick out the most. My mother (Therese), and two aunts (Joyce and Lisa) have always been the most loving, selfless, hilarious, kind, and wonderful examples of sisterhood I know.
One recent evening, Mom told me that the three of them had signed up for the Mason Triathlon happening at the end of July. HOLY COW, are you SERIOUS??!!
After I got over how absolutely impressed I was, I asked why they had decided to do this. They wanted to raise money for my cousin’s oldest son, Carter, who was diagnosed with MPS II (Hunter Syndrome) in 2012 and has been undergoing gene therapy treatments for over three years. As he approaches his sixth birthday, my mom and aunts thought this would be a unique way to spread awareness and line up sponsors.
Three women, all mothers, all over (or almost) 50 years old, all dedicated to help raise money for this little boy, while also pushing their own physical limits in the process. Now THAT is strong and sexy.
I recently sat down with the terrific trio and discussed the importance of staying active, their training, and what exactly sparked the flame to sign up for a triathlon and raise money for gene therapy research.
As mothers, how important is an active lifestyle to you?
J (Joyce): I don’t remember a time in my life I wasn’t trying to exercise, or trying to eat right. Age is a state of mind. I was just talking to [my daughter] Paula, and I was telling her “I don’t feel old”. You know, you ache every now and then, but I don’t feel old. If someone says “Let’s go out for a 13 mile bike ride,” that isn’t daunting at all. I have 3 kids, and I can outrun the two oldest.
(cont.) I think with my style of life, teaching 8th graders for 30 years, I wanted to make sure I was always able to do what I could do to the best of my ability. That meant having to be in shape and understanding young kids and what their thoughts are. It’s a heck of a lot more fun to be able to go through this life with ambition and zest. Why go through this whole journey without feeling good about yourself, and feeling good while you do it?
T (Therese): And being able to instill that in your kids. You want them to realize it’s important to be active. When you see them finally doing that, it’s awesome.
L (Lisa): Think of Mom and Dad. [As a physical therapist] I treat so many people in their 50’s and they look like they’ve got one leg in the ground. They look pretty weathered, but Mom, she’s 81 and she can still get down on the floor and play with the great-grandkids. And my patients, if they’re on the floor, it’s probably because they fell and broke their hip. I just hope when I get that old, I can still do that.
Were Grandma and Grandpa super active people? All of their children are so athletic.
“Girls just didn’t do sports back then. The only thing we could do in Junior High was keep stats for the boys.”
T: Well, when Mom was young, there weren’t sports for girls. She did cheerleading, she bowled, and now she golfs. I remember a time when we were younger where she would go to the track and run.
J: Dad was an athlete, and we as a family always were active. Mom would try to keep in shape. But Mom didn’t start golfing until she was in her 60’s. Girls just didn’t do sports back then. The only thing we could do in Junior High was keep stats for the boys. I ran cross country with the boys when I was a Freshman.
What made you decide on a Triathlon?
L: I think God kind of put that in my head. I’d been thinking for a long time there has to be something we can do. I started looking and found a triathlon in Columbus, but you had to swim in a lake. Then we found this one in Mason where you swam in a pool, and thought “This is perfect, a great way to start out.
J: It’s not about getting in shape. People will ask “What are you training for?” and I don’t even think about that. I don’t think “I’m going to be in a triathlon.” We bring that picture of Carter, and see him, and you think this is a no-brainer. Instead of just asking people for money, you have a platform, and you have information to pass out to them.
What have you been doing to prepare for the event?
T: We all got memberships to the YMCA, and swim three times a week, then run and bike on our own. About twice, we’ve been able to get together and go through the whole thing. It’s swimming 16 laps (¼ of a mile), a 12 mile bike ride, and then you run a 5K.
J: We started swimming in April. We were all already running, and Therese was biking a lot, I biked a little. So I guess you could say the real training happened after we began swimming.
Is there one specific part of the Tri you found especially challenging?
L: Ohhh God, the swimming. But you know, it’s been great. I really want to continue the swimming.
J: You know when I love swimming? When it’s over.
L: I think the biking is the worst, it’s sooo boring.
T: I LOVE the biking!
HA! Ok, well, do you think training for this together has helped?
J: Yes!!! Therese and Lisa challenge me. We each have our strengths. I love the running, Lisa and Therese both swim so well, and Therese could bike forever. We push each other. Like, Thursday, I didn’t want to train at all, but I knew Therese was coming to pick me up. So you hold each other accountable. It does make a difference. People motivate you.
T: There was one day Joyce called and said, “I don’t think I’m going”, and I said, “Well, I’m still going,” and I think you ended up coming along. I wouldn’t do it any other way, training together is the best.
J: The first time we’re riding our bikes, we were just like, “Can you believe we’re doing this? This is the greatest thing ever!” We’re together, it’s the best. We’re even closer than we were before. You see different sides of your sisters you haven’t seen before, and the talent! God, the swimming talent Therese has, unbelievable.
Who are your inspirations?
L: There’s a lady at the pool I met, she’s in her 90s, and about 10 years ago she was in the senior Olympics for speed walking. She won 3 golds and a silver!
T: And you should’ve seen these other ladies at the pool the other day! They pull this laundry basket behind them — flippers, snorkels, everything, and who knows what they do in the water. But they’re doing it!
J: One of those women said “They call us the crazy ladies, but I just know it’s good for my heart.” Some of these ladies probably never got into the water before, and here they are at this age doing this. It’s so cool when you doing something like this because, first of all, it’s humbling, and second of all, you see people going through something that’s such a challenge to them, and you’re so motivated by it.
T: Carter is also such an inspiration. And his Grandpa, our brother Jer, is there all the time willing to do anything to help. Their whole family is inspiring.
What would you like people to know about MPS and Hunter Syndrome?
T: I think it’s important for people to know that there isn’t a cure. That’s the biggest thing [Carter’s mother] Natalie is trying to do, raise the money for the current research that’s going on. And [researchers] are getting results in animals. They’re seeing results, but like all research, it takes time and funding.
L: And it’s not like you have an unlimited amount of time. Carter’s already going to be six. The remarkable thing is that the therapy he’s receiving now wasn’t even available when he was born. It’s progressing that fast.
T: People at the YMCA — they’re some of our biggest supporters right now — see us in our matching purple swimsuits and ask “What are you doing?” and you’ll just start telling them. You’re able to explain what we’re doing, and they’re able to learn a little bit more about what gene therapy is.
J: Facebook, the flyers we’ve all sent out, just talking in the neighborhood. Another thing we’re trying to do is go outside this community, talk to people who know the family, and that seems to help. People are excited that you asked them and are willing to help out, the power of word-of-mouth.
T: When they had the last fundraiser, they offered a shirt that had all of the different MPS websites on it, and those are still for sale.
At Strong Is Our Sexy, we focus a lot on female empowerment. All of you have daughters. What kind of example do you hope this is setting for them?
L: I hope at least it’s showing them that Mom can still do something! Last night we went and did a 5K as a family, and it was so much fun.
“Every now and then my kids will say “You’re such a beast!” and I take that as a compliment to be called a beast at my age.”
T: I think all the giving, and doing something not just for yourself, is something. We’re lucky enough that this triathlon is benefiting us physically, but you’ve just got to give back.
J: Paula putting up the GoFundMe site, you doing this article, we didn’t ask you guys to do these things. Every now and then my kids will say “You’re such a beast!” and I take that as a compliment to be called a beast at my age. And not just the physical stuff, when you have a challenge, you need to try and do everything you can to achieve it. Girls can do this stuff! It’s a matter of setting your mind to something, no matter what it is.
Do you think you’ve grown from this experience?
L: Absolutely. One day I walked in and thought “I can’t believe I’m going to the YMCA to work out.” I never thought I would do that. And now I think I run better because of the swimming — at least now, I have some sort of butt muscles.
J: My whole life, I’ve really just run. Cross-training for the tri has been amazing. This has really opened new doors.
What would your advice be to someone wanting to do a triathlon?
T: Definitely do it with someone.
L: Mark it on the calendar, pay the registration fee, and then you’re committed.
J: And have a purpose. Whether it’s to get in shape, get in better shape, or for a cause like we are, just do it! Start small, one lap in the pool, and then keep at it.
How do you think Strong is your Sexy?
J: I just think there is nothing more sexy than an older person who is enjoying life, and you can see it in their face! That’s just it, it’s enjoying life. I look at older women, who are on their knees gardening, doing what they love. Nothing is going to stop them.
T: Rather than just parking it in a chair and not doing anything because you can’t.
On July 26th, bright and early at 7:30 am, the women’s triathlon will begin, and you better believe I’m going to be right there cheering my family on.
To learn more about Carter’s story, please visit www.cartermps2.com. You can also make a donation today at Carter’s National MPS Society Inc. Donor Page, or with Go Fund Me. Therese, Joyce, and Lisa have already raised over $2,000 dollars, and 100% of the money is going towards MPS II (Hunter Syndrome) gene therapy research.
Giving back, staying strong, and inspiring others at any age. THAT is what STRONG and SEXY is all about.