Pole pioneer Tom Rutlin honors assistant, friend, long-time survivor with a pole of her own
Tom Rutlin, who introduced both poles designed for fitness walking (he called them Exerstrider poles) and a technique for using them (Exerstride Method or Exerstriding) in 1988, before the phrase Nordic Walking came out of Europe, is a deliberate man who does not impulsively launch new products or change his existing ones. So it was a great tribute to a treasured colleague and friend when he added some pink trim and an important message to his OS2 poles (see the end of this post) and introduced an initiative to help raise funds for efforts to educate people about the health benefits of exercise. He has permitted me to use his words and pictures to tell a poignant story that does not have a happy ending — but hopefully, will help others in the future.
The Suey Starcznski Prevention Project by Tom Rutlin (used with permission)
1959-2009 (Breast Cancer Survivor 1997 – 2009)
“Suey” was first diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 1997. By the time she came to work with me she was a “survivor” of 6 years. When she interviewed in 2003, I asked her what she did for exercise. She replied, “I don’t exercise…hate to exercise”. Despite that fact, I knew immediately that she was exactly the right person for the job. I told her that in order to do her job here she would have to have first-hand experience with the Exerstrider poles so I would pay her for 30 minutes per day of Exerstriding.
She fell in love with Exerstriding immediately, and a few weeks later she asked me how long I intended to pay her to exercise. I hadn’t really thought about it, and told her so. Her reply, “I never thought I’d say this, but I love this exercise.” She insisted that I stop paying her to exercise, and became the most enthusiastic proponent of the exercise I could ever have hoped for. Those of you who had the great honor and pleasure of knowing Suey through Exerstrider understood exactly why I hired her despite her honest admission that she hated exercise that first day I met her.
Sadly, in 2007 she was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer, which had also spread to her bones and liver. Against all odds, and with the same glowing smile and positive attitude she brought to everything else she did, she refused to lose hope, yet in December of 2009 we lost the shining light that her unique spirit shed on everyone that she touched during her too-short life.
Suey told me that one of the reasons she loved her job so much was that almost daily she heard from people about the healing and preventative health powers of their newly discovered love for regular physical activity. Although her newfound love of exercise did not save her, she believed that it extended her life, and it has been clearly demonstrated that the incidence of many forms of cancer as well as many other modern health epidemics can be greatly reduced by regular moderate physical activity. For years, the thing that seemed to give her the greatest satisfaction was hearing from people for whom Exerstriding had helped overcome obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and many other serious diseases.
Near the end, Suey said that she hoped and believed that others would be spared the kind of suffering she had to endure as a result of our efforts having helped them discover the joy of physical activity. She said, “If only more people knew that exercise could be so enjoyable and that it could actually help do so much to prevent cancer and many other diseases that cause so much suffering, it could make such an important impact on so many more people.”
That’s why I created the Suey Starczynski Prevention Project, the “double P” pink ribbon and pink Exerstrider poles to honor her memory and her indomitable spirit that lives on. $5 for every pair of the pink poles sold will be donated to programs to promote education on the preventative health power of regular moderate physical exercise. Suey believed, as I do, that prevention is the most powerful “cure” for many diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression, osteoporosis and many other diseases which have become epidemics of sedentary living.