Teamwork: The Catalyst for any Journey

As you may or may not know, I have a pretty strong background in chemistry (as a Chemical Engineering student), so please do bear with my analogy. If you are not well versed in chemistry for whatever reason, a catalyst is something that is used in a reaction to lower the activation energy. Imagine you have to push a rock over a hill. The catalyst actually decreases the size of that hill. It’s pretty magical. Having a catalyst does not necessarily mean that it won’t be hard to get that hypothetical rock over the hill, but it sure is easier.

I have found that throughout many of my journeys or challenges, my catalyst of choice would be to have a team. I grew up playing various sports and participating on teams for competitions, but I think when I came to college, I began to view the concept of a team much differently. Instead of a group that puts their best players on the field, shows their strength to achieve a specific goal of winning, I see a team as a group of people who have a similar goal, but don’t necessarily have the same goal. A team is a group of people that can be real around each other. They can pick each other up when one is struggling through encouragement and support (and sometimes food) and they don’t pass judgement on each other, because everyone defines success differently and that is OK.

From the portraits I have had the honor of reading, it is amazing to hear about the teamwork that went into caring for a single patient. From hospital staff, technicians and nurses to family members, childhood friends and people who were only acquaintances before the diagnosis. Around these people, a patient can be strong and happy, or they can be discouraged or weakened. No matter what the patient is feeling, though, they can rely on their teammates to be there.

Hearing a friend was diagnosed is such a surreal experience. This happened to me my senior year of high school when I learned that my friend would not be attending classes, but chemotherapy instead. This was incredibly hard for me to understand, and at such a young age! I undoubtedly cried and was very upset, but my friend just hugged me and lifted me up, even though I wasn’t the one with the diagnosis. I was a very small part of the huge team she had cheering her on, but having so much support made the journey more bearable (she is coming up on her 5 year remission soon!).

Illini 4000 has been such a great experience so far in terms of getting 29 new best friends :) In addition to that, though, I have learned how to work in a team. We have a lot of group training that we do together, which is interesting when some people started out transitioning for Ironman/triathlon training and others hadn’t visited the gym in…a long time. I fell somewhere in between on that spectrum which was cool, because I had people who would push me to get better and I was able to push others to receive their maximum potential. Now, our success will be measured in the miles we ride, the money we raise and the portraits we collect and not necessarily the speed at which we complete the ride (though we will stay on schedule *knock on wood*).

I cannot imagine doing Illini 4000 without the amazing team. I have trained in the past by myself and I can reach my goals, but without the catalyst of teamwork, it definitely takes a lot more. Above that, though, I cannot imagine fighting cancer without a team. I know that it has been done before, but it is so encouraging to see the strong support groups around an individual. I think the overall message that I would like to convey in this not very concise blog post, is that no matter what kind of a journey you find yourself in, having people around you who you can build up and who can build you up is incredible. Allow others to push you to your limits. And offer sincere encouragement to others. Pushing rocks up hills isn’t easy, but sure is easier with a smaller hill (or more people pushing the rock).

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