We’ve had many dynamic and inspirational runners on TeamAICR over the years, but we’ve never had a pair quite like the Big Sur International Marathon duo of cancer survivor Gordon McGill and his trainer, Sam Ditzell. Their enthusiasm, candor, commitment, sense of humor, and above all, their deep friendship, are truly inspiring. They are also May’s Cancer Fighters of the Month.
Sam and Gordon met in 2008 when Sam helped Gordon and his wife train for the New York City Marathon. After completing the marathon, Gordon continued working with Sam in the hopes of training for another race.
However, in 2009 Gordon was diagnosed with bladder cancer and endured multiple rounds of surgery and chemotherapy. Throughout his treatment he continued to train with Sam. “Some days Gordon couldn’t even get out of bed during the chemo, but he still only missed a couple of workouts,” Sam remembers. “More than physical determination, Gordon managed to maintain such a positive, goofy, almost child-like attitude throughout his treatment.”
The training goal for Gordon was the Big Sur marathon. Supplementing his cancer treatment with physical activity gave Gordon the strength, energy and fitness to help overcome cancer, and “a continual renewal of a joy for the outdoors, a heartily needed boost in energy, and a deep appreciation for all of the wonderful people who have supported me in life’s struggles.”
The benefits were not one-sided. Sam found that he could learn about his own strengths and weaknesses by working with Gordon. “I have learned so much from [Gordon] about attitude, focus, and perspective…He taught me to look at any insurmountable problem that I’m facing in my career, relationships, or health and simply say ‘surely, there’s a way’.”
On April 29th, three years after Gordon’s initial diagnosis, he and Sam completed the marathon side by side. “For the past four years, Sam encouraged me every week to fight my disease with a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and a good attitude. Now, we are both committed to taking the effort to the next level with TeamAICR as we continue the fight against cancer together.”
Thanks, Sam and Gordon, and thanks to all the members of TeamAICR for their hard work and generosity in the fight against cancer. Visit TeamAICR to learn more or join.