ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Being healthy isn't just something Mary Eggers strives for; rather, it's something she lives for.
"People always ask why I have so much energy – it's because I exercise a lot," Mary said.
A pediatric nurse and fitness coach, Mary is currently training for a triathlon. A rigorous experience, no doubt, but she said it's not as challenging as what some of these teens are going through.
"What I do is not inspiring. It's easy, compared to what they go through, so they have so much strength and resilience already."
Mary is involved with Teens Living With Cancer, or TLC, an organization in Rochester which lends guidance to young survivors, and those battling cancer. Specifically, she helps a handful of teens in the TLC Fit Program. It's the only fitness program in the country to cater to 13- through 18-year-old cancer patients.
"I wanted them to feel good about their bodies, and not feel like they had to hide or shame, or anything like that," she said.
The program just finished up an eight-week research study through the University of Rochester to see how much of an impact it has.
From the first week, up until now, the progress for this group has been quite remarkable.
Bryn Mugnolo, a participant and cancer survivor, said, "basically what I was thinking was, if I'm going to get into shape, this is how I'm going to do it."
The 16-year-old knows all too well the pain of having to spend most of her teenage years inside a hospital, but the Fit Program has changed her outlook.
"I don't really ask 'why me', because it turned out to be a really good learning experience."
Alec Slater, another teen cancer survivor in the program, said, "You kind of set your mind to something, and you just say, 'I'm not going to give up until it's over.'"
"For them, the sky is the limit," said Mary.
A friendship between the group has grown, and Mary said her bond with the teens is something she will forever hold on to.
She will also cherish the moment with the teens, when she received word from her hero, Lance Armstrong, after challenging him to race.
"He replied and then he got in touch with me and challenged me to raise $100,000 to split between Teens Living With Cancer and Livestrong."
The world-renowned cyclist, who makes a living through his fitness strength, will now come face-to-face with Mary in a duel in the pool. The 50-meter race will be held at the University of Buffalo on April 28th.
"But more importantly, it's brought a lot of focus to these kids, and to raising money, because two people work here, and we want to keep this running, and going, so that's the important part," she said.
For more information on the Duel in the Pool and to donate to Teens Living With Cancer, click here.