Last September I spent two weeks doing a “Bike to Breathe,” pedaling 500 miles from Maine to New York to raise awareness and $500,000 for the Boomer Esiason Foundation. At 59 years old and as a recent double lung transplant recipient, I was tired, yet inspired by the many people I met along the way -- both in and out of the cystic fibrosis community.
Toward the end of the ride, my friend Lee and I discussed what I would do next, especially since I'd be turning 60. Many people are shocked to hear I've just turned 60. In the CF community, we tend to focus on the median predicted survival age of 39 years, which means that some see me as defying the odds by 21 years. I am living, breathing and succeeding with cystic fibrosis, possibly by luck, but I believe that my diligent self-care, an amazing medical team and the advances in CF medications have contributed to my longevity.
Although the Bike to Breathe was no small feat and generated significant awareness and money for the CF community, it seemed that I should embark on something not just for me, but that would further engage the CF community -- and everyone. Lee matter of factly said, “How about 60 for 60?” I looked at him like he was nuts at first, but the idea grew on me, and here I am, well on my way to my 60 for 60 journey.
So, you're probably wondering, what is 60 for 60? Simply stated, 60 for 60 is my “living list.” Some people have a “bucket list” -- a list of things they'd like to do before they “kick the bucket.” I chose to see the glass (or in this case, list) as very full, and developed my 60 for 60 living list. It is 60 things I've been doing and will continue to conquer as a 60-year-old.
Overwhelmed by the possibilities, I started to organize my feats into three categories: living, breathing and succeeding. My focus with these activities is to engage my friends, family and those I don't know (yet).
The living list is what I like to think of as the fun list -- the things that inspire me to feel alive. My “jump the fear” part of the list is conquering things I might've thought were impossible, like taking a trapeze class or zip lining across a rainforest.
The breathing list is also about exercise, like doing 60 sets of push-ups with others. As long as my knee replacement heals well, I plan to ride 600 miles before I turn 61!
The succeeding list is the “pay it forward” type of activity. Recently, more than 60 students at Iona Prep donated 60 pints of blood! In this case, exceeding 60 for 60. Next up: donating 60 “You Cannot Fail” and “TRU Hero” care packages to pediatric patients, including my children's books and “You Cannot Fail” t-shirts and wristbands.
Whether someone has cystic fibrosis or not, I'd like to inspire even just one person to create and live their own list. If 60 for 60 is too much, you can start at 5 for 5, 10 for 10, 20 for 20 ... It's all about recognizing that no feat or gesture is too small to live in the possibilities of the future.