Alumna Camille Otruba with her dog Indy

Raising Awarness to New Heights

Reflection by Camille Otruba '09

Life certainly has a way of being unpredictable. No matter how much we plan, no matter how many times we double- and triple-check the list, sometimes things play out differently than we had planned. Being a widow at 27 was never part of the plan. But that became my reality just two short years ago.

After graduating from Alvernia University, getting married to my college sweetheart, buying a house and settling down, our world got flipped upside down when my husband, Bryan Otruba, was diagnosed with leukemia. After a hard-fought, four-year-long battle with the disease, he was gone, and I was left to pick up the pieces of my life. In his honor, I’ve been raising awareness and funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in memory of an active guy whose own life-adventure was cut short at the age of 28.  

Life is a journey full of ups and downs, good times and bad, and plenty of choices to be made along the way. We may not always know why things happen, but it’s up to us how we move forward in the aftermath. Last September, I participated in The Nation’s Triathlon in Washington, D.C. It was my first experience with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training (TNT), and I knew it certainly wouldn’t be my last! Through TNT, I recently discovered an opportunity of a lifetime! They were climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, and I could too! 

I’m choosing to embark on this epic journey in memory of Bryan because he always wanted me to be happy, and I was happiest when we were adventuring together. Our golden doodle, Indiana Jones, would join us on many of these adventures. So with that same adventurous spirit, I’m seeking new heights, figuratively and literally ... 19,341 feet, to be exact! 

This effort will take a lot of training and a lot of support. My training officially began in October with a 16-week program to prepare me to hike to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in February. I will be learning plenty of new skills in preparation for this adventure. Hiking requires more than boots and a backpack, you know. 

I will be learning and growing with my fellow climbers from states other than Pennsylvania. We are all coming on this trip from different walks of life. I love meeting people and learning their stories — where they’ve come from, where they’re going, and why they do what they do. 

We will not even officially meet some of our fellow climbers until we arrive in Africa, but from the moment we signed up for this climb, we became part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society family. We are all coming together as a part of a team to work toward a greater purpose — something that is bigger than any of us as individuals. We, as active individuals who will fundraise in exchange for training to complete a climb, serve the greater good of making this a world with less cancer and more survivors!  

In life, I have always tried to look at the positive side of things. But it’s difficult to think of anything positive coming out of the loss of my best friend. I have chosen to keep moving — in the water, on a bike, on the road and now up a mountain! My efforts will hopefully aid in bringing about a cure for blood cancers, and maybe even all cancers someday. I pray that more people can not only survive cancer, but thrive in the aftermath of their battle.

My connection to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and the Team in Training Program, came on the heels of a great loss. It’s not always easy to keep moving forward or to look for the positive in a situation, but sometimes we must look at things in a different way, from a different vantage point. Yes, I miss the times Bryan and I shared going places and being active together, but now I do those things as a way to remember and honor Bryan! I can’t help but think this may be his way of showing me a silver lining. 

I can see that I’ve been given an opportunity to help others. I have been linked with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through a series of unfortunate events. Yet I am fortunate enough to participate in an altogether different set of events that seem to bring me closer to my husband and keep the memory of the vibrant man I married alive.

Visit Camille's Team in Training page to help her meet an ambitious $10,000 goal.