I went to the Carson City Kiwanis Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day last Saturday.
Founder Robey Willis describes it as a “mini Olympics” because it features 5K and 10K runs, a bench press competition and golf tournament.
After years of bringing up the rear in 5K runs, I finally wised up and entered the bench press competition. And I won.
It came as a surprise to me, even though the pool was relatively small. (I keep saying I’m sure there are stronger women than me in this town, but they didn’t show up …)
Because I threw shot put and discus in high school, I regularly lifted weights. But since then, I don’t think I’ve lifted at all, outside of the occasional dalliance.
So when I got there, I wasn’t sure where to start. According to the rules, you get three lifts to get to your max. I picked 110 pounds to begin with because it seemed like a legitimate number. It was pretty easy, so for my second lift, I bumped up to 120. Again, it wasn’t too hard, but I wasn’t sure where to go next.
I wanted to go for 130, but friends and spectators urged me to go higher. So my final lift was 140.
And I did it.
I don’t tell this story as a way to brag because, like I said, I’m sure there are plenty of women who are stronger than me.
I tell this story because I realized that day I was stronger than I thought I was.
I think most of us are — and not just physically.
As a daily newspaper reporter, I often talked to people on the worst days of their lives, or about the worst experiences of their lives.
A mother who held the hand of her dead son, then went to hold the hand of his friend, who also died in the accident, so he wouldn’t feel alone.
Children who suffered unthinkable abuse at the hands of those who should have protected them.
Family who watched a loved one fight and lose the battle against an incurable disease.
They were all heartbreaking. But they were also inspiring.
Because after those worst days, they grieved and they rebuilt and they found meaning again. They loved. And they made a difference.
I think of the bravery of Marilee Swirczek’s daughter who recently wrote a column in the Nevada Appeal about her mother’s suicide.
That takes a seemingly impossible strength.
We sell ourselves short when we shy away from difficult or scary situations, when we back down from a challenge.
I think of my own worst day and how sometimes the memory can still knock my feet out from under me, or take my breath away.
There are people who help ease the burden, and there are those who, through ignorance or selfishness or a combination of both, add to it.
But they don’t write my story. Or your story.
I’m stronger than I think. So are you.
Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at email@example.com.