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Passion for Activity Gives A Cancer Survivor Hope

Emily KimballA two-time breast cancer survivor describes how she followed the challenging path to achieving her dreams – and, as motivational speaker "the Aging Adventurer," helps others to do the same.

At 82, Emily Kimball knows the meaning of the word "determination." In retirement, she has accomplished her dreams of bicycling 4,700 miles across the United States and hiking the Appalachian Trail despite two bouts of breast cancer.

Growing up, Emily learned to love the outdoors by going to summer camp in New Hampshire and playing tennis and softball. In her early 40s, while going through a divorce, she began bicycling with a local club in Richmond, Virginia, where she still lives.

Positive Thinking Works

Older adults face more challenges than younger people when trying to become active, according to Emily. When she began talking of cycling across the country, some people told her she was crazy. "But you can't listen to negative voices," she states. "You need a support group who believes in your passion, who's telling you that you can do it."

When Emily advertised in hiking magazines for a partner to walk the Appalachian Trail, she asked for a person who was willing to hike only 8-10 miles a day. "That pace is comfortable. I'm out for exercise and to enjoy the fresh air. I'm never speedy," she said.

Staying active means being active, according to Emily. "Be open to new ideas, new people and figuring out ways to make things happen. Don't be passive, sitting around waiting for things to happen." Talking with people about your interests can help you explore available resources.

Staying Active through Cancer

Emily, who gives presentations to groups about redefining aging for the 21st century, has published a book, Appalachian Trail Stories and a booklet about traveling inexpensively as an older person. While she encourages people to dream big, she also says, "Sometimes failure teaches you to change your dream a little. Maybe you make it simpler or take more time."

And she speaks from experience. Right before she turned 71, Emily was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy and radiation. During that time, she read a lot and had friends drop in.

"I felt awful, but I always found the energy to walk. I would ride my bike or play tennis on days when I felt better, even if it meant sleeping for the next 12 hours," she said.

Emily found that the variety of her activities served her well. "If your passion takes energy and strength, you should have other things that you love and can fall back on."

At age 80, she was diagnosed with a different type of breast cancer and again underwent treatment. Then she faced pneumonia and a fall, resulting in a broken foot. Stressing that her love of the outdoors and her support team of family and friends have helped her recover, she said, "You can come back from it and you can regain your life."

Sign up for Emily's quarterly email newsletter and order her book at www.agingadventurer.com.


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