The Other Cancer Survivor and Champion Named Lance

At 8:08pm tonight Lance Mackey crossed the finish line into Nome winning the 35th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Emotions ran high. He cried, his family cried, Governer Sarah Palin’s voice cracked over the phone congratulating him. Howard and I teared up watching it live from our living room.

In 2001, Lance was diagnosed with throat Cancer and he stared death in the face and eventually beat it into remission. Made Cancer his bitch. Which made him my hero.

Anyone who knows me and the grief I feel over the loss of my grandfather knows how I feel about the big “C”. Anyone who overcomes it is a hero in my eyes.

Just 20 days ago, he won the Yukon Quest. No one in the history of the race has won both races in the same year, let alone with the same team of dogs. The dogs he lovingly cared for and the first place he went when his sled slid under the arch. “Let me talk to my boys, let me talk to my boys”…he yelled. He dropped to his knees and they covered him with licks, nudges, and made yaps and howls. They were just as happy as he was. They shared his excitement and happiness. Then of course his other family descended upon him and he cried openly.

It’s times like these that make me so happy to live in this state. Alaska is really the last frontier. The last wild, untamed part of this country. The place where women moose hunt during the day or endure a bumpy snowmachine ride, or a bumpy dogsled ride and then get dressed up and go out to dinner at night. I love that this state allows all the ruggedness that not everyone is exactly comfortable with and the hedonistic pleasures of the modern world too.

People in other states might not consider the Iditarod Race a big deal but my fellow Alaskans and I are damned proud to be a part of it.

Congratulations Team Mackey!

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