ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Teri Griege is a St. Louisan who competes in triathlons—including her completion of the famous Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii at age 50—all while receiving chemo treatment for Stage IV colon cancer.
On the heels of the release of her book, “Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story,” KMOX Sports Director Tom Ackerman sat down with Griege to talk about her life-changing story.
KMOX: Would you look back at the inspiration for the book and think, ‘How did this all happen in such a short amount of time?’
Teri Griege: Absolutely. The book was never something I had planned, and inspiration for others was just something that came. I really was just following my passion and wasn’t going to let cancer beat me or take away what I love to do. From there, this whole movement, inspiration and example came from it.
KMOX: The book actually begins with another battle, the battle of addiction. Before you received the diagnosis for Stage IV colon cancer, you actually had spent many years battling addiction, didn’t you?
TG: Correct. I was, as a teenager in my late teens, early 20s, I knew I had a problem with alcohol but didn’t want to accept it or admit it. Then, finally, 21 years ago I came to terms with that, so I’ve been sober continuously for the past 21 years. That’s really a battle I’m more proud of than walking through this cancer journey.
KMOX: Being able to get past that, and then your love for sport, your love for competition, it’s something that kept you going through the diagnosis, didn’t it? If I could define this book by anything, I’d say you constantly lived in the moment.
TG: I think you’re spot on with that. But that’s also part of the program in recovering from addiction—all we have is today. Because many times if you look into the future it’s just way, way overwhelming. So, many of the things that I learned in how to deal with my addiction were very crucial in helping me walking through this cancer diagnosis. It’s a great way to live. You wake up in the morning and decide, ‘What am I going to do? How can I make a difference? How can I take care of myself? How can I touch other people?’ and you just keep moving one day at a time.
KMOX: Tell us about the day you received the diagnosis.
TG: You just really can’t describe a day like that. I really had no idea that it was going to be as advanced as it was. I thought if it was just Stage I that we could cut it out and take care of it. But then when I found out it had already metastasized to my liver, that was devastating. The first vision I had was of my daughter on her wedding day standing there in front of a mirror with her veil, wedding gown and everything on and my sisters would be next to her and I wouldn’t be there. And my sisters would be the ones telling her everything on that day that I would want her to know. It was quite a visual image and one that, I’m hoping, will not ever have to come true.
KMOX: But through those quiet moments of information to your friends and loved ones in which you were telling them about your diagnosis, you and your husband Dave, who was there with you through so many of those moments when you were fighting addiction, you stood together and said, ‘We’re not having a pity party,’ and from that point on, you were moving forward.
TG: Correct. I mean, it sounds that easy and certainly we had times with ups and downs, but for the most part we had that mindset and we were going to battle this thing with as much strength and as much ammunition as we possibly could. And that’s what we did. And in the meantime, and in doing that, I think we’ve been able to give back to the community quite a bit. We’ve gotten active in raising money for cancer research and Pedal the Cause, we’ve gotten active in the colorectal national associations. So, you talk about taking a negative and turning it into a positive, and that’s what we’ve tried to do.
KMOX: In the book, it reads, ‘I tried not to complain about chemo, or my life being hijacked by an insidious disease, about the daily disruptions of treatment or the constant fatigue and discomfort. I didn’t deny them, I just never brought them up. Why should I? Everyone has his or her own cancer, everyone has struggles and obstacles, everyone has valid reasons to throw in the towel. Why would my situation justify excuses? It didn’t. So I simply tried to keep doing what I love. Action erases excuses. Action holds people accountable. Action keeps things real.’ Action you certainly took. Tell us about the inspiration of John Blais.
TG: John Blais is a young gentleman that, in his mid-30s, was diagnosed with ALS. And he did not want to give in or give up, either. So his dream was also to do the Kona Ironman in Hawaii. That was one of the greatest things—they allowed his dream to come true. When you put your body through that type of endurance and hard work, it exacerbates the symptoms of ALS. And he had made this decision that was truly his life’s dream. When he got to the finish line, I had happened to watch the Iron Man program in 2005, he was the inspirational athlete and when he got to the finish line, he laid down and he rolled across the line. It’s called the John Blais roll. And to this day, many age-groupers and pros do that in his honor. He passed away about a year later. There is an ALS foundation, and one of the things that comes out of this is that you start to think, ‘What would my legacy possibly be?’ John has left a very strong legacy and the day that I watched it on TV I said, ‘One day I want to do that race,’ never ever in my wildest dreams thinking it would be full-circle and I would be an inspirational athlete just like he was.
KMOX: The marathon and triathlete community is a tight one, isn’t it?
TG: Oh yes.
KMOX: And you wrote this book with Amy Marxkors, who runs herself. It’s an incredible read and really flows, but it also can relate to so many people in so many different instances in so many different battles. I found one of the most inspiring parts of the book was the army that you enlisted—your friends, your family, even people you didn’t know. And that continued in your triathlon, the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. People you didn’t know, spectators along the course joined the army as you confused.
TG: And you know what? I feel like today, anybody who reads the book is now part of the army. It will continue to grow.
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
- Stream The Charles Schwab Challenge
- All Elite Wrestling Challenges WWE With Double Or Nothing
- All Elite Wrestling Challenges WWE With Double Or Nothing
- Charles Schwab Challenge: Can Justin Rose Defend At Colonial?
- Colonial Country Club: Hogan’s Alley, Home Of The Horrible Horseshoe
- Baseball Report: Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger Continues His Hot Streak