At the age of 33, Jamie Valvano was diagnosed with breast cancer. This news came 13 years after her late father, Jim Valvano, the N.C. State basketball coach, inspired a national audience during his iconic 1993 ESPY Awards acceptance speech when he said:
"We need your help. I need your help. We need money for research. It may not save my life. It may save my children's lives. It may save someone you love."
In his speech, the coach announced the formation of The V Foundation for Cancer Research, which has now awarded more than $150 million in grants for cancer research.
Jamie Valvano continues her father's legacy. She joined Team V, the foundation's endurance training and fundraising team, and is participating in the Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh Half Marathon this month to raise money for cancer research.
"I challenge myself to feel alive and celebrate my healing," Valvano explains. "I'm not a runner or an athlete. I jog and/or walk to finish my races.
"I celebrated my five-year anniversary by participating in a half marathon with my two best friends, and I'm doing the same for my 10-year."
Here's more inspiration from the 43-year-old middle school teacher, who lives in Apex:
Q. What's it like for you to hear your father's speech today, more than 20 years later, as a cancer survivor?
A. The words he spoke took on a whole new meaning once I, too, was diagnosed. I'm in awe of the courage and strength he had to share his personal battle with the public. He used his voice and passion to inspire others to not give up no matter what they might be facing in their own lives.
I carry his words and spirit with me every moment of my life, and am thankful that because of cancer research I am alive today.
Q. Many of us remember your dad's spirit as he led the 1983 Wolfpack men's basketball team to an NCAA championship, but what was he like behind the scenes?
A. My dad was a whirling force of energy, creativity and humor. My mom, sisters and I wished there had been more time to be in his presence.
Perhaps something inside of him knew he would have a finite time to accomplish his dreams, and so he was always talking, coaching, directing, quoting and learning.
He never met a stranger and existed to connect with other people. I remember my dad as an ordinary, flawed human being who was able to accomplish the extraordinary.
Q. Why did you join Team V and decide to participate in the Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh event?
A. I'm celebrating my 10-year anniversary as a cancer survivor. I recognize that it took a team of family, friends and doctors to get me to this place. I'm so thankful for the work that is being done at The V Foundation and can think of no other way to embrace my healing than to cross the finish line on April 10.
Q. From cheering on Team V last year to training for it this year, what has been your favorite moment thus far?
A. For the first time in my life, I'm part of a team and even have a coach to motivate me. I have a special bond with coach Larissa Muchnick and keep in touch with our team via social media. Whenever I'm having a tough day, I put on my Team V shirt and hat, lace up my sneakers and get moving.
Q. What does it feel like to run a half marathon?
A. It feels great to accomplish a goal. For me, the races have a deeper meaning, too. They represent the fact this disease has not robbed me of my strength and courage.
Q. Do you have a specific goal or time in mind for completing the half marathon this year?
A. I would like to finish in a little over three hours, but will celebrate my accomplishment no matter the time on the clock.
Q. Have you found creative ways to fundraise?
A. I shared my personal story on Facebook and asked individuals to donate $10 in honor of my 10-year anniversary. We've all been touched by cancer, and I found people more than willing to support the cause.
Q. Have you had any setbacks to your training?
A. Time and energy are my two biggest challenges. I work full time and am a mother of two boys. We have a busy schedule, and I've missed many workouts. I was hoping to be farther along in my training, but I am not going to give up!
Q. "Don't give up... don't ever give up," is a special line from your dad's ESPY speech, and it seems fit for an endurance event. What do you draw on the most for inspiration to cross the finish line?
A. My children were 3 and 5 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was terrified that I wouldn't be here to see my children grow. My sons kept me motivated to battle this disease, and I continue to look to them for support when I want to throw in the towel.
They never met my father, but I know that he would have loved being a grandfather. Sometimes when I run, I talk to my Dad and share with him all the wonderful things that are happening in my life. I know, without a doubt, that he is with me each and every mile.
Q. What would you say to a woman reading about this who thinks, "Oh, I could never do that"?
A. Never tell yourself that you can't accomplish something you desire. We limit ourselves when we don't allow ourselves to believe in the impossible.
To find out more and to join Team V for upcoming races, visit Run4V.org.