Meet a Health Hero: Marci Schankweiler

Read more about For Pete's Sake's Marci Schankweiler, a semi-finalist in our 2013 Health Hero Challenge!

>> You can vote for Marci on our Facebook page September 24-30. Mark your calendar!

Name: Marci Schankweiler

Occupation: President and Founder of For Pete’s Sake Cancer Respite Foundation

Who or what motivates you to be healthy?
My late husband, Pete, passed away at age 30 of testicular cancer. His death taught me that life is fragile and that we should care for our bodies, our minds and our spirits because we only get one of each! When we learned that we could not fix his physical health—the cancer was too far gone—we decided that we would nurture our mental, emotional and spiritual health and take a long break from cancer. We took a 17 day respite to relax, refresh and rejuvenate for what was sure to be a long journey ahead.

Today, I am remarried to a man who reminds me to seize the day, and we have two beautiful daughters. My family inspires me to be as healthy as I can be, so that I can ensure I am setting a good example and also that I will be around for a long time. I want my girls to grow up loving themselves and appreciate the things that their body can accomplish when they take care of it.

Additionally, my work with For Pete’s Sake Cancer Respite Foundation shows me that we tend to take our health for granted. In one instant, our lives can change with a cancer diagnosis. While we have regimens to help our physical fight against cancer, our mental health is just as critical. I am motivated each day by the many families we serve at FPS to help them address the psycho-social needs caused by a cancer diagnosis.

Describe a health or fitness related turning point in your life.
The Sea Isle City Beach patrol hosts a 10-mile run each summer. Pete was a lifeguard and he loved his times with his friends at the beach! Several years back, the beach patrol allowed runners to fundraise for the mission of FPS, and I realized that asking our donors to run 10 miles was a tough thing to do. It’s a challenge, to say the least, but I decided to lead by example and start training! I was also turning 40 so I used the run as my own personal goal as I journeyed into a new decade of my life. When one runs on the beach, I find that I am one step closer to heaven with the majestic beauty of the water, sand and shore.

What “policy” would you institute to make Greater Philadelphia a healthier region?
I think that our Philadelphia workplaces have to set the way for our residents to become more aware of their health, both physical and mental. A work-life balance is critical in our fast paced world, and I think that workplace initiatives can go far. For example, our office joined a 10,000-step challenge to measure how many steps we take each day. Additionally, we believe in taking some time off work every now and again to regenerate and regroup—even if it is sitting in the lunchroom and eating lunch together as community rather than at our desks with our heads piled high in paperwork. We have a responsibility to encourage each other in our own personal journeys with our health.

What’s the most important part of your health or fitness regimen?
At FPS we are about taking a mental break from cancer, but I think we all need our mental break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Hence, the most important part of my health regimen is taking the time to either walk or run each day, usually in the early morning hour, to step outside to breathe, reflect and refresh. During this time, I can laugh about yesterday, nourish my spiritual health with prayer, and reflect on what may unfold today, all within a serene calm environment only cluttered by my breathing pattern.

What is your number one piece of health related advice?
To quote an old favorite of mine, Jimmy Buffet, and to add my unique spin, I can sum this up in one line: “Treat your mind, body and spirit like a temple, not a tent.”