“Today I have two major goals –– to inspire others and to save lives.”
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Teri Griege is an avid multi-sport athlete. In 2009, two weeks after completing Ironman Louisville, she was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. Two years after that, she achieved one of her most important goals: crossing the finish line of the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
Teri considers her experience a gift, one she gladly shares through speaking engagements. Her inspirational message, “Powered by Hope” is impactful on a variety of levels and to all types of audiences. Whatever your struggle, Teri will have you convinced that anything is possible…powered by hope!
Teri, with a 6% chance of survival, what were your thoughts and emotions after your stage IV diagnosis?
When I first heard it was a stage IV diagnosis, I immediately thought about my daughter who was 16 at the time. I thought about how I would not be here on her wedding day. It would be my sisters by her side telling her all the things I would want to say to her.
I also had the hole in my soul and gut — like nothing I had ever experienced before. It was like a wave or storm of fear.
Then, I came to believe — someone has to be in the 6%, why not me!! I call that my 6% rule.
What is your message to individuals and families about screening and prevention?
I was diagnosed at the age of 48. Typically screening begins at age 50. 2 weeks after I was diagnosed, my 2 sisters had their first ever colonoscopies. They were 61 and 62 at the time. One sister had precancerous polyps and the other stage III colon cancer.
Next, each of my 2 sisters have 2 daughters. All 4 nieces went and had colonoscopies right away. 2 of the 4 had precancerous polyps. We have had genetic testing and no correlation was found. But, we treat and screen as if there is a genetic link. Genetic testing is not perfect and has a long way to go.
Colorectal cancer is the one cancer that is preventable, treatable and beatable if found early. Know your family history, get screened and talk about this. IT SAVES LIVES.
There are a number of messages in your book, Powered by Hope. What role has running played?
Yes, there are so many messages from the book. Here are some of the more important ones.
I set goals, mainly athletic events. A half Ironman from 1 year of diagnosis and a full Ironman from 2 years of diagnosis. I also ran many full and half marathons along with shorter triathlons. Running/training were/are my passion. It fueled me. Fed my soul.
Eventually I would become a feature athlete (inspirational story) at the 2011 World Championship Ironman in Kona HI. That was my BIG dream. To cross the finish line of that race.
You have a tale of two diseases. Can you tell us about it?
I have been battling two diseases for a while now.
I was diagnosed with Stage IV colorectal cancer September 18th, 2009. I went through radiation, many rounds of chemotherapy, colon and liver resection, more heavy chemo, then placed on maintenance chemotherapy — probably for life (hoping immunotherapy will happen and save my life).
I have also had 2 cancer re occurrences while on maintenance chemo: lung and liver metastasis (again).
I have also been in recovery for alcoholism. I recently celebrated 24 years of sobriety. It took a few relapses and treatments to get to the 24 continuous years of sobriety. The 12 steps give me the tools I need to deal with the cancer on a daily basis.
I always say – I am not grateful for cancer or alcoholism, but I am grateful for the blessings they have brought.
What is the Medal of Hope and what is its significance?
The medal of Hope was born out of this idea. When you hear the words “you have cancer”, you have just entered the greatest race of your life!! When you finish a marathon or big race, you get a medal. I decided everyone with cancer deserves a medal—for being in the middle of their race or finishing their race.
The medal is a symbol of HOPE. Hope How Ordinary People Endure.
There are many times when the medal is presented by another fighter, thriver, survivor which symbolizes you are not alone.
No one fights alone. I believe in carrying the message because there is so much more to say.
Give hope away, and it will be yours to keep!
More About Teri….
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Visit her website. where you can learn more about Teri, where someone can shop for a medal or buy Teri’s book, Powered by Hope.
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