By Arthur Vincent
When it comes to joining the fight to cure cancer, many go the extra mile. Mark Buntz has made a habit out of going 140 miles in one day, with the memory of a friend’s fight against cancer as his inspiration.
When his friend and colleague Tim Nesvig sought treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at City of Hope in 2003, Buntz decided to donate blood at the Duarte, Calif. campus. Upon his visit to City of Hope, he not only saw Nesvig — he found inspiration, and was certain his blood donation would help his friend.
“I felt connected to Tim in a way that I had never felt before,” Buntz said.
After Nesvig’s death in February 2005, Buntz resolved to take that energy and apply it towards his first triathlon.
“At the time, the word ‘triathlon’ alone would send chills down my spine, always accompanied by an internal dialogue that screamed, ‘No way. Are you crazy? You can’t,’” Buntz remembered.
In spite of his fears, Buntz devoted himself to his physical pursuits, even quitting his job to train fulltime.
Only three months after his friend’s death, he completed his first triathlon — consisting of a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40 kilometers of cycling and 10-kilometer run. Less than a year after that, he completed his first Ironman triathlon: 2.5 miles of ocean swimming, followed by 112 miles on a bike and finally 26.2 miles of running — a full marathon.
“During the 15 hours of racing in the hot Arizona sun that day, I had plenty of time to reflect back on my life and those who had given me the strength to endure,” Buntz said. “At the finish, I raised my arm high in the air, holding my Livestrong bracelet to the sky. It was a thank you and a promise. A thank you for the gift Tim had given and a promise to continue his fight.”
On Oct.13, Buntz was one of 1,800 athletes to have been chosen to participate in the “granddaddy” of all triathlons, the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. He crossed the finish line in a time of 16:21:51, a testament to his physical endurance and his enduring pledge to the memory of his friend.
Through the donations of friends and family, Buntz was able to raise more than $10,000 for the Tim Nesvig Lymphoma Fellowship and Research Fund, proving that positive energy can translate to hope.
What is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that starts in lymphatic tissue, a part of the human immune system that protects the body from bacteria and foreign invaders. Lymph nodes, the spleen, tonsils and the thymus are all lymphatic tissue.
More than 63,000 people will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2007, according to the American Cancer Society, and about 18,660 people will die of it. The cancer is more common in men than in women; the risk of getting this disease during one’s lifetime is 1 in 50.