Our supporter of the month initiative is an opportunity to thank the special people who have shown incredible commitment to LIVESTRONG and also to give perspective to our staff, interns, clients and many visitors about who is supporting the Foundation and why they are doing so. In addition to having their story shared on our blog, the supporter of the month will be featured on a wall in our Austin office, where the LIVESTRONG staff will be able to get to know our supporters and share notes about how much these individuals mean to us.
August Supporter of the Month: Annemieke Janssens
LS: How did you become involved with LIVESTRONG?
Annemieke: On December 2nd 1999 I became the victim of a hit and run that left me depending on crutches for the rest of my life. In the same year I watched Lance Armstrong win his first Tour de France after surviving cancer. His courage to fight and go on gave me the strength and inspiration to do the same. No matter what you might think of his cycling achievements, he inspired me to work on 5 hours of exercises each day to be able to walk on crutches. In 2008 I got the chance to honor Lance’s inspiration, the memory of my niece Judith Janssens who died as a young teenager of Leukemia, my Uncle Piet Theuns who also ran out of time, and the other 7 family members affected by cancer by becoming a local LIVESTRONG Leader. In 2009 I got the go ahead to get back on a bike and train for the Austin LIVESTRONG Challenge 2010. Participating in this Challenge was a highlight in my life and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to participate in several other Austin Challenges since.
LS: What is your occupation?
Annemieke: I’m a management assistant at GGZ WNB, an organization that treats psychiatric patients. I work for the management team consisting of a manager, two healthcare professionals that are responsible for the content of care, and five team coordinators.
LS: What do you like to do in your free time?
Annemieke: I like to ride my LIVESTRONG bike and work out. In my free time I also teach two LIVESTRONG spinning classes for survivors during the week, both followed by organizing a talk with the participating survivors. On Fridays I usually volunteer at oncology wards in my capacity as a LIVESTRONG Leader, which is a great way to tell people about the amazing work LIVESTRONG does and how they can help, even from here in The Netherlands. Besides my individual volunteer work I’m also a proud member of Team NL4LIVESTRONG, together with team mates Karen de Klerk and Manfred van Kuijk.
LS: Can you tell us a bit about your family?
Annemieke: I’m the middle child of three and the proud aunt of two beautiful nieces, two nephews, and an “American niece and nephew” (from my American sister and brother-in-law). My dad unfortunately passed away at 67 from cardiac arrest, and my mom is currently living with me so I can help her as a primary caretaker.
LS: Why is it important to you to give back?
Annemieke: Witnessing my niece run out of time (being the youngest in the family) made me realize no family should be going through this. When my Uncle Piet ran out of time also, followed by Gilbert LaBranche and John Lohle this feeling only became stronger. I choose to volunteer for LIVESTRONG because of the fact it is unique: they focus on the people affected by cancer NOW and I’m very grateful to contribute to their amazing work as a volunteer LIVESTRONG Leader.
LS: Do you give in honor of anyone in particular?
Annemieke: I always give back with my niece Judith Janssens, Uncle Piet Theuns, Gilbert LaBranche, John Lohle and Thomas Fritch in my heart and mind; but I’m sad to say the list with special people I try to honor has only grown over the years.
LS: What is your connection to cancer?
Annemieke: I’m one of the lucky ones and am not a survivor myself, but the list of family and friends that I have lost to cancer or are suffering from this disease is way too long.
LS: In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of LIVESTRONG’s work?
Annemieke: The fact they step in the moment people are diagnosed and start looking for the best help for each survivor separately. Either through their awesome Navigation services or all the other programs they offer that are designed to help those individuals as opposed to other charities raising funds just for research. Research is also needed but those affected now need our help and support now (at least in my humble opinion).
LS/Annemieke: Finish this sentence: “To me, LIVESTRONG means… bringing hope in a positive, hands-on approach for those in the fight for their life right now.”