Unfinished Business

By Jessica “JP” Protasio

A new battle begins.

September 8-10, 2011
I started my vacation in Keene, TX, at my alma mater. I headed to the university assembly and shared my cancer story with many old and new friends, professors, and mentors. The

highlight of the afternoon was hugging Dr. Kilgore, who’s battled cancer and won numerous times. What an incredible moment to share, one where both of us are in remission. Cancer is well known on this campus as many students, faculty, and staff have been touched or taken by this disease. Anyone whoís had to deal with this beast is well aware of its claws and teeth. There’s something incredible about the bonds you create with fellow cancer survivors and caregivers. I enjoy taking in their awesome personalities, humor, and scar stories.

I’ve been sharing cancer support materials with people in various locales across the country and sharing my journey with cancer, but every time I hear other cancer stories, I’m reminded that there’s still so much work that needs to be done in cancer research and treatment. Today, I learned of a recent graduate, “J,” whose cancer has progressed to the point where doctors now say he’s got less than six months to live. I hear my former history professor’s question ring in my ears, “What can I do to save his life?”

September 11, 2011
It’s hot, humid, and miserable. I overslept. The sun is high in the sky at 8:00 A.M. in Corpus Christi. I’m slogging through the heavy moisture in the air and wondering why people choose to live in this city. I can only imagine it’s worth the few months of great weather and the accessibility to South Padre Island. A seagull calls from the telephone pole as I round the corner. Inhale, two, three, four. I hate the heat. Why am I running? Because, I can. It’s been about six months since my liver transplant due to cancerous tumors, and I’ve been training for my first triathlon in California, which is just a week away. I spend the rest of the day with friends recounting stories of where we were when

The Krased Marauders prepare to ride.

the towers were hit and how much the world has changed since that day. “J” pops into my head. I wonder if the “Hail Mary” chemo is working and whether he’s started writing his book. I hope he can finish in time.

September 12, 2011
Fellow Krased Marauders rider, Heather, has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and is staying at the hospital where I received my cancer treatment and transplant. I know she’s

under the care of some of the best doctors in the nation. I hate cancer so much, but I’m also grateful that there are so many people who are dedicated to stomping it out. I’ll have to check her support group page on facebook.

September 15, 2011
I see yet another cancer institute facility on my way to the airport. I’m leaving Texas and heading to California for the race. I don’t want to go. The last time I was here, my mother had died unexpectedly. Being in Texas has been something like a homecoming. I want to make my parents proud, even if they’re not around to tell me that they are. I think this is a feeling that will never go away. I feel like I haven’t done enough. I want to do more.

September 17, 2011
I am continually reminded of just how incredible our bodies are. We’re remarkably resilient, and yet, unquestionably fragile creatures. I finished Matt Long’s biography and I was both moved and frustrated. Here’s a New York firefighter who gets sucked under the wheels of a 52-passenger bus while he’s cycling to work and is given a less than 5% chance of survival. Astonishingly, he makes a full-recovery and completes another Iron Man. Even Lance Armstrong‘s cancer prognosis was 50/50! Heather was just diagnosed on Monday. How can she be

My name amidst allies and challengers alike.

gone now? I feel guilty for having been worried over having a suitable bike for the triathlon and for having stayed up too late gallivanting about Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, and the Santa Monica Pier. The Krased Marauders are having a remembrance ride tomorrow. I hope her kids are okay.

Race Day: September 18, 2011

It’s dark. It’s cold. We’ve parked a gazillion miles away from the registration tent. It’s 5:30 A.M., and the sound of the waves swelling and crashing fills my already disoriented brain. I try to walk my bike safely through the crowd of athletes moving toward the cluster of lights in the distance. My friends, seasoned athletes, Michael & Rachel, walk in front of me as

my head lamp lights our path. Their 14-month-old boy says, “Hi!” randomly as we bottleneck to the check-in site. I find my

One of many racing for Heather.

name on the board and snap a picture. Today, I ‘tri’ for everyone who can’t and everyone who’s been there for me. Today, I will stay safe, have fun, and just do my best. No matter what. I’m doing this. I just want to finish.

I’m processing everything I’ve seen, heard, done, and didn’t do over this vacation. I’m trying to focus on the positive. I didn’t finish the triathlon. I started in the last wave, and in two hours I made it through the half-mile ocean swim and eleven miles of the bike ride before the course closed due to permit regulations. I simply wasn’t fast enough. Perhaps, I was too ambitious. Even so, I’m only more motivated to conquer this course–and any obstacle that gets in my way. If I’ve learned anything during this trip, it’s that despite the diagnoses, prognoses, or odds, people do make it. So, while we don’t always win, it doesnít mean we’ve

lost. All of this is just unfinished business. Whether it’s conquering cancer, writing that memoir, or completing a race…let’s finish it, together.





JP is a Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch of the Howard County Library System. She is a Pajama Time storyteller, wannabe triathlete, KPOP-addict, baker of cupcakes, and a cancer survivor.



  1. Bryan M. McMillan

    JP – You are AWESOME!! You are a WINNER!! You are a SURVIVOR!! You are a KRASED Marauder!! You are LOVED!! You have done more than most folks, you are already a Aqua Velo athlete! Vigo and I will be at the finish line for Iron Girl next year for YOU!! Big hug to you.


  1. Words « bootySTRONG - [...] catch a glimpse of why I am such a fan, just take a moment to read one of her …

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