Lynda Chyzyk is a dear friend of mine. I met her 34 years ago through the US National Disabled Ski Association. We were both in our early twenties and ski racing. I admired her, as she was a fearless, phenomenal downhill racer on the Canadian team. As her American opponent, I was determined to beat her, but after years of “putting it all out there,” I never did catch this woman on the course. So, if I couldn’t beat her, I decided to join her. We became ski pals, confidants and good friends. The only thing bigger than her competitive spirit is her enthusiasm for life!
Lynda is bold, smart, and passionate about life. She can be shockingly honest and calls it as she sees it. Lynda doesn’t hesitate to point out contradictions in an argument and the responsibility one has as an individual, to be honest. It’s Lynda’s honesty and enthusiastic spirit that inspires me the most. She seeks out adventure each day and has fun, despite unexpected challenges. Lynda practices gratitude in living life each day. She knows life is a blessing, and that’s especially true as she’s a bone cancer survivor of over 40 years.
Lynda lives in Whistler, BC surrounded by beauty and mountains. We still ski and hike together, with our dogs. She is now passionate about mountain biking and is a powerhouse in that sport, despite injuries along the way. Daily Pilates, and a swim in the local mountain lake with her dog, help Lynda stay flexible and fit.
This month, Lynda wants to pay it forward to celebrate “40 years FREE” …cancer free. In gratitude for a second chance at life, Lynda intends to raise funds for families fighting cancer in the Sea to Sky corridor (between Whistler and Vancouver). The additional costs of traveling to Vancouver for treatment and lodging is just one more burden that families shouldn’t have to face alone. This fundraising event is a reflection of, and a testament to, Lynda’s indomitable spirit. She firmly believes that a person has the chance to live well, whether their cancer is active, in remission or cured. “I’m paying it forward,” Lynda says, by “paying it back.”
She wants others to realize that life is good, but when lived with enthusiasm, life is great!
What are your passions?
My first passion every day is coffee (laughs), but after I get that, I just love being outdoors. I love nature, I love swimming in the summer and snowshoeing in the winter.I hadn’t skated in 32 years, but thanks to the picks on my SideStix, I wear my prosthesis and use my SideStix to help me skate on the lake!
I think I’ve always been an outdoors girl. We went camping as a family once when I was younger. My mother hated it, but I absolutely loved camping. There’s nothing better for me than to be sleeping on the ground. I love when it’s super dry – which doesn’t happen a lot here – and you can leave the tarp off the top of your tent and stargaze throughout the night. I love being outdoors.
How do you stay active?
I do Pilates two to three times a week, as well as all my outdoor activities. I do bike riding, downhill and cross-country skiing, and keep my dog active with walks. It just about kills me to stay inside all day!
I live in a community where people are active from the age of 2 ‘til 92. It’s a very active, outdoor community. Everybody skis, bikes, jogs… any mountain sport like climbing and hiking. I had a book club – I do some quiet things! – and one of the ladies moved to another community on Vancouver Island. She wrote to us saying “Wow, these people are really old over here!” It’s just a different community and lifestyle to what I have here.
How do you engage in winter sports?
I do most sports without my prosthesis. Pilates has been the only activity or exercise that I always wear it to; it’s really good for my balance. I three-track ski without my prosthesis, and I’ve always cycled without my prosthesis.
Before SideStix, I used a European crutch. I’m used to the forearm crutch – I’ve always liked that. They were very skinny and light, but I always had problems walking in sand, mud, and snow, so at that point I wasn’t snowshoeing or skating, or those sorts of things.
When I snowshoe, I use my SideStix with the snowshoe attachment and the ice picks. Our trails are quite snowy and icy. When they plow the snow off the road, it packs the snow and makes it really nice and slick, and even more slippery. Ever since I’ve had my SideStix and the ice cleats, I have not had a fall. There’s a trail just outside my house that looks like a bobsled or luge track. Lot of times I see people go “I’m not gonna go that way”, and there I go up and down with my SideStix, and they just kind of look at me, like “Wow, okay, you go that way! All right!”. I’m always up for a challenge.
What is your favourite thing about your SideStix?
One of the things I love most about my SideStix are the shock absorbers. I think they are really great. It makes walking for long distances way easier on your body and your joints. I love the grips and I love the attachments that have allowed me to take up snowshoeing. I love the Grip Caps! They have really opened up a lot of avenues for me, having those different components to the SideStix that are so easy to put on and take off. There are a lot of cedar walkways and bridges, and putting the Grip Caps on at those wet or mossy slippery wooden bridges really assists keeping me upright.
What is your definition of ‘defy convention’?
I think defying convention means to go beyond what everybody else does. For example, getting on a Hobie Cat sailboat, I have a three-point contact, where most people have two. You want to do something, and you know you can do it; you just may need to make adaptations that really defy convention.
Tell me about your fundraiser.
Families Fighting Cancer provides funding for people within the Sea to Sky corridor. While we’re close to Vancouver, we’re far enough away that if somebody does have a family member with cancer and they have to be in the city for a period of time, they don’t have a place to stay. Families Fighting Cancer helps directly with the community, and 100% of the funds go directly to the people that need the money. All of the board members have had cancer affect members of their families, and realized that there were no support groups in this area. They’re all volunteers, and they do all of the work themselves.
It’s 40 years for me, since I lost my leg to cancer. I’ve been thinking over the past many years – first five, then ten – thinking that I wanted to do something. It’s taken me 40 years because I’m a little bit of a procrastinator, but I decided it was time! I was talking to one of my colleagues after Pilates one day, and she turned me on to her organization. I looked it up, and thought, “Wow, this is exactly what I want to help with”.
What do you consider to be the defining moment in your life so far?
I think probably the first one was when I lost my leg, but I think now I’ve had a defining moment within the last several years where I just became really comfortable with who I am. I know who I am, I am doing what I want to do, and I’m just being a super strong individual. I’m really independent. I might have to figure out how I’m going to do something, or what tools I might need to do it, but I will do it.
I feel like I am living the dream. Every day, I wake up and think how lucky I am to have been born where I was born, to have a family and friends who love me and have always cared for me, and to have what I have. The opportunity to have whatever you really want is there; all you have to do sometimes is work a little harder for it.
How do you stay motivated?
I think eating right is really important. I don’t eat processed foods. I grew up eating very wholesome, healthy, homemade foods, and we didn’t have any packaged foods. My mom never bought them, so I don’t have them in my cupboards. Making everything from scratch helps you be healthy and have energy.
You just have to look around and realize how lucky you are, and what you’re doing here. Just live – go out and breathe the air and move around. Dance. Sing. It makes you feel so good! Laugh! Some people don’t laugh enough. They say that even if you fake laugh, it can cause you to start laughing, and it makes you feel better.
Do you have a message for other crutch users?
Be mobile. The more you sit, the more you just sit. It’s not good for your health or your mind. I think sometimes people expect you to run a marathon on the first day. That’s not going to happen. I think you have to take it slowly, work your way up to things. Eventually you can go further and be stronger. Find what works for you, and be happy with what you have.
You can use those sticks – be it SideStix or other sticks – for a thousand and one things! This morning, I used my SideStix to turn on the light switch and push my phone out from under the bed where I dropped it. Be inventive! Just get out there and don’t be shy. People are always concerned about what other people think, and I think it’s important not to worry about that. It’s important to know what you think, and how you feel, and then perhaps you can help the other people think in a different way.
Click here to view the items available via online auction for Lynda’s “40 Years Cancer Free” fundraiser. Auction ends Tuesday, October 1 at 9:00pm PDT. To make a donation to Families Fighting Cancer, click here.