China and I – Deirdre Smyth
I am a British/Irish/Venezuelan girl, who has been living in Beijing for 3 years. A Breast Cancer Survivor, I am mother to four children and, if this is not a challenge enough, I also dream to be a torchbearer for the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
For this challenge I would like to explain to you why I feel I should run with the Olympic torch.
To me, the Olympic Games stand for a spirit to bring people all over the world together, to compete but to do so fairly, to dream of extremely difficult goals and to persevere to reach them, but also a spirit to reach beyond and to be an example to make a happier world, a happier China, a happier Beijing.
I was born and grew up in Venezuela, father being Irish and my mother Scottish. In 1994 I married a Dutchman and then we moved to the Sultanate of Oman to live there for almost seven years. Our children have Venezuelan and Dutch passports and we speak English, Dutch and Spanish at home.
When my husband’s posting in Oman finished, we decided to learn as much about the world as possible, by driving from the Sultanate Oman, with our children, all the way to Spain. We wanted our children to be citizens of the world, to have the chance to see and enjoy its beautiful people, culture and land through-out, so we drove through UAE, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France and Spain, before we headed to our next beautiful posting which is China.
Living in China now for three years, has opened an incredible world for us. Our children go to an international school, which has given them the chance to live and learn about 50 different nationalities. I myself, try bringing people together by organizing the social activities of my community. For instance, every Friday I take expatriates on bike tours around the area of Chao Yang District, particularly the Yu Jing Hua Yuan River area, so they can marvel at the beauty of the country beyond the tourist scope.
At the age of 13, I was the Female Winner of the South American Sunfish Cup, participated and won in many sporting events in my High School, later on was honored with the Athlete of the Year Award of the University and in between I have always had sports as one of the most important areas of interest in my life. The last event I participated in was the 2007 China Great Wall Marathon, in which I did the 10 Km Run.
Eight years ago my life took a wild turn as I faced having advanced Breast Cancer, right after my fourth child was born. Through the gloom and fear of my life ending so soon, I took a decision to use my situation to benefit other women and families around the world. As I have traveled to 30 countries, I have made friends all around the world, so, when I became ill, I knew that I owed it to all these people to make them aware of the reality in breast cancer, so I wrote letters to all the people I could reach, encouraging them to get themselves checked, or encourage their wives or mothers or daughters to do so, and in our community in Oman, I created a pressure on the medical system of my husband’s company to allow all women to have access to mammograms from age 34 instead of 45, as today’s average age of Breast Cancer is 34 years. Through this turn, many women found themselves supported and encouraged and I hope I have saved the lives of many friends who unwittingly were headed to the same problem.
My need to show women of the world that the world is a beautiful place to be explored and my conviction that nothing is impossible, brought me to create an all Women’s team to compete in a challenge called the Wahiba Dessert Challenge in Oman which was, up until then, a challenge taken on only by men. It took a while to convince the organizers and the spouses of my team, but at last I recruited 8 fantastic women willing to give their life the gift of discovery. So my Ladies’ team is named Wahiba Divas, has been participating every year since 2003, and by their participation collect funds to support the Breast Cancer Association of Oman.
I feel that I can represent the Olympic Torch. My multinational background is one reason, my love for sport and for bringing people together is another reason, but also because I believe that having had my challenge to survive beyond the odds of cancer, that I have the spirit to be a lighting example for others. When I carry the torch I hope to represent the power we as humans have over our destiny when we choose to take on a challenge, however difficult it may be. And with that I wish to create awareness to all the women in Beijing, in China and in the world of the importance of early detection of Breast Cancer, the strength to fight it, and the hope to find a cure.