In Memory of Carol John

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

Carol Knight John died last week. She had cancer, but she never let cancer define her.

She was always participating in triathlons, climbing mountains or moving boulders in someone’s garden. I marveled at her energy and her ability to get so much life out of each day.

Her level of activity was beyond what’s typical for most people going through cancer treatment. We usually encourage gentle exercise like walking. Carol wanted to run even when she didn’t feel well. She was an athlete through and through.

I can remember only one other person with a similar constitution. Before he died and while he was in chemotherapy, Tom Margeit went out bronco riding. I asked, “Tom, did your doctor say it was ok to go bronco riding?”

Tom replied, “Well, he didn’t say that I couldn’t go bronco riding.”

Carol and Tom both assumed that they should be well and be active. If something hurt, they wanted their doctors to fix it because they had stuff to do.

When I attended Carol’s memorial service, I was struck by the number of people who knew Carol in various ways. Some were her quilting friends, others fixed wheelchairs with her through an organization she helped create called “Wonderful Wheelchairs,” and many more knew her through her church and ​her other interests.

Carol was always bringing people together and creating community. She recognized the value of purposeful activity, especially if done with others.

Our motto here at the Cancer Resource Center is that “no one should face cancer alone.” Carol embodied that – not only in relation to cancer, but for all of life.

We all know that it takes a village. Unlike most of us, Carol spent her life creating that village.

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