Extraordinary Jane: Cathy Anderson-Meyers
Special to The Union
Cathy Anderson-Meyers is an everyday woman living is Chicago Park. She is known as the “Snow Shoe Queen” and the founder of the Barbara Schmidt Millar Women’s Triathlon taking place today.
In its 16th year, the Barbara Schmidt Millar “Celebration of Life” Women’s Triathlon helps raise funds for the Breast Imagining Center at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and a scholarship for female high school graduates in Nevada County pursuing an education in the health care profession, in addition to educating women about breast cancer and making healthy choices.
The statistics are startling, 1 in every 8 women is estimated to develop breast cancer. Cathy’s work has had an incredible impact on the lives of hundreds of women by raising thousands of dollars to fund the fight against breast cancer and encouraging women to get fit. Cathy shares her personal story and how a recent life threatening event has changed the way she operates in the world.
Q: How did Barbara inspire you to get involved in triathlons?
A: Barbara was a real good friend of mine and we were in a volleyball league together. She got breast cancer. She was 42 years old when she died and Stewart (Barbara’s son) was only 4 years old.
A dear friend of mine, Sally Edwards who is the national spokeswoman for the Danskin Triathlon Series had been bugging me to get involved. Never in my life had I done a triathlon. I thought I couldn’t do that, that’s too hard. But when Barb got sick I thought well I guess it’s time to bite the bullet and give it my best shot. I had to borrow a bike. It was a 10-year-old mountain bike. I’d ride my bike to Barbara’s and she just loved it. She was always so encouraging and excited that I was doing something to honor her. So I did my first triathlon in San Jose. They had a raffle drawing and I won a bike! That was it.
Q: Now you are 62 years old and have been leading the Barbara Schmidt Millar Triathlon for sixteen years. How did it all start?
A: I got hooked on this triathlon stuff. I said to all of my volleyball girlfriends, let’s go to Cascade Shores and do a triathlon to honor Barb. They said we’ve never done one. And I said, well it’s OK, I’ve done two. As it turned out there were 13 of us who did it that first year on Oct. 1, 1995. Barb passed away the week prior. We went to her service and the next day we went out and did this triathlon for her. There were a lot of tears.
The next year we talked about it and we decided to do it again. We had 35 women participate and women started giving us money. I know there are lots of women like Barb but she just connected with me and this just happened. The triathlon has taken a life of its own.
Q: How much has the triathlon raised to support local breast cancer prevention?
A: We used to get really excited with twenty thousand and the third year we hit thirty-five thousand. Barbara’s family said she had graduated from Nevada Union and was the class valedictorian. She got her degree in nursing. They thought it would be nice to have a scholarship in her name to women who were pursuing health care. In 1999 we started it and have given 33 scholarships totaling $85,000.
Q: What are some of the stories that have touched you?
A: We have women who are overweight and they do the triathlon to get fit. One woman, Michelle came to me and said you wouldn’t recognize me because last year I weighed fifty pounds more and now I’m doing other triathlons and marathons. She is training with a 62-year-old breast cancer survivor and they have since qualified for the Boston Marathon.
Q: This event has really transformed some women’s lives. How has it impacted your life on a personal level?
A: I suffered a heart attack four weeks ago and it’s made me realize what a lot of other women have gone through. You don’t think you’re going to have a life changing event whether it’s a heart attack, cancer or diabetes. It was quite an eye opener. I have another job with the REI Outdoor School where I take people on trips like snow shoeing, kayaking, cycling and I now have to rethink how I’m going to deal with the rest of my life. Multitasking does not help; it hurts.
Q: How did you become the Snow Shoe Queen?
A: That was my friend Sally Edwards again. She said we’re putting on a snowshoe race so that’s what you’re going to be in. When I finished, I thought, I did this the very first time, I didn’t fall down, and my whole family could do it and look at all the fun everyone is having. I virtually put away all of my skis and have been on snow shoes ever since. Sally suggested I start a snow shoeing business and get paid to do what I love to do. That was the same year I started the triathlon.
Q: What do you think the power is for women to participate in something like a triathlon or an outdoor event?
A: I think women for so many years, especially my generation were told sports are not feminine. When I was growing up I wanted to be able to do anything my brother did. When I went to college I was a PE major because I loved sports and didn’t know any other way to continue participating in those things. I think I am giving women permission to accept that they can do these things too.
Q: What is your message to women around the world?
A: I think if we take care of our bodies and our minds we can then overcome tremendous odds.
Q: Why is it so important to share this story with everyday women?
A: I think there is a lot of economic stress and if you can participate in an event like this and cross that finish line, it’s amazing how you feel. There are tears, laughter, and joy. That’s the power that it gives women.
See Jane Do is a multimedia program capturing the stories of everyday women doing extraordinary things for the planet. Catch our one-hour talk radio program on KVMR 89.5FM the first Wednesday of every month from 1-2pm. For more inspiring stories, podcasts of previous programs and to sign up for our newsletter, go to our website http://www.seejanedo.com
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