Radiating warmth and a sunburst smile, Cammy Dierking practically welcomes you to walk in her shoes. The Local 12 evening anchor, motivational speaker and perennial Sunflower Revolution emcee and cyclist wants you to live as fully and happily as she does. And if Cammy makes that balance look easy, it’s because she has spent decades perfecting the art of embracing positive thoughts and banishing negative ones. Cultivating the positive energy field that surrounds her and envelops others is part of her life’s work.
Cammy’s determination to put mind over matter was never more apparent than during her second Ironman, last month’s Ford Ironman Triathlon in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. In the event’s opening moments, a mass start off the beach and into Coeur d’Alene Lake’s bone-chilling water, Cammy was pushed under by a heavier swimmer who was trying to get ahead of her. While fighting back to the surface, she kicked another swimmer in the head, fracturing her baby toe. “It was chaos; it was like a human washing machine,” she said during a visit over coffee before heading to work, her toe still black and blue. “I knew almost immediately I had broken it. The pain just shot up my leg.”
But Cammy soldiered on. She finished the 2.4-mile swim, then biked 112 miles over a hilly course. The bigger problem was the 26.2-mile marathon. Unable to run, Cammy was forced to walk the entire route, placing her weight on the inside of her injured foot and walking backwards when going downhill. She completed the marathon in 7 hours, 12 minutes, and the triathlon in 16 hours, 41 minutes, just 19 minutes under the 17-hour maximum allowed for anyone wanting to go home with a medal. “It hurt, but I didn’t care,” Cammy said. “I was so happy. Doing an Ironman, you feel honored to be there. Only 2,200 people get in, and they treat you like a rock star. So quitting wasn’t an option. I had to finish it.”
A positive attitude, Cammy believes, is accessible to almost everyone, even to those not normally inclined to the sunniest disposition. “You can train yourself to be that way,” she said. “If you challenge negative thoughts as they come into your head and always go toward the positive, find the good in every situation, I think you can manage your frame of mind. Even in a tragedy you can find something positive.”
Cammy, a wife and mother of three who will turn 50 in October, learned that lesson following a period of searing personal loss. Cammy gave birth to her first daughter, Kylee, in January 1990, two weeks after losing her mother, who was only 50, to lung cancer. Three months later, Kylee died of SIDS.
“I learned that we could never take our children’s health for granted,” Cammy reflected. “So I appreciate them, and I appreciate life more, because I know that it is fleeting and fragile. It was a good lesson for me; that was the positive I took away. I also learned through my tragic experience that there are a lot of people who love me, who care about me. And that was a positive to take away. So I think you can train yourself to go to the positive, but you have to work at it. I now naturally go there.
“I’m not a Buddhist, but I do agree with a lot of Buddhist philosophy, with the idea of Karma. I’m simplifying, but it means that if you do good things, good things happen to you. If you do the right thing, even when no one sees you, good things happen. And conversely, when you have negative thoughts, or you do something you know is not good for you, I believe that’s when the bad things start to happen.”
Cammy has been sharing her Cam-do philosophy as a Motivational Speaker for the past 10 years. (Photo below, left, by Shane Gamble.) She is a co-author of a new inspirational book, The Power of the Platform: Speakers on Life, which becomes available for purchase on her Web site today. The title of her chapter: “Boost Your Karma.”
Although she suffered from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis while growing up and had a total knee replacement five years ago, she is clearly a walking model for healthy living and all of the joys and benefits it engenders. She gets at least seven hours of sleep a night, is up at 8 a.m. every morning, eats healthy, whole foods, and works out daily. She walks her dogs, mows the lawn and enjoys the kind of heart-pumping exercise that prepares one for a triathlon. “For some people relaxing means sitting still,” she said. “But that’s not my idea of relaxing. For me, relaxing is riding my bike 100 miles or swimming two miles in a lake.”
Cammy has also made a commitment to the health of others, participating in fundraisers for a constellation of health-related organizations. She and her father, Connie Dierking, the UC and Cincinnati Royals basketball legend, are teaming up in the American Cancer Society Golf Classic on August 30.
And since 2006 Cammy has emceed and cycled in the Sunflower Revolution, which benefits Parkinson’s disease research at the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center at UCNI. Cammy speaks with pride about her late grandmother, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease and participated in the first clinical trial for levadopa, the medication used to increase dopamine concentration in the brain. Whether in years to come she has an official role in the Sunflower or not, Cammy says she’s “in it for life.”
The Sunflower, with its signature 100-kilometer bike ride, puts Cammy in her “happy place,” which is on her bike. “I know it sounds corny, but when I am on my bike I can’t help smiling,” she wrote in an e-mail message. “I feel like a little kid! Sometimes I ride with no hands … just like I did back in the 60’s on my SWEET purple sting-ray bike with the sparkly, silver banana seat and sissy bar, and the playing cards on the spokes … held in place with clothespins … going tick, tick tick when I pedaled!”
Today Cammy rides a sky-blue, carbon-fiber bike that she won at a half-Ironman Triathlon event. She named the bike “The Rocket,” had a professional fitting with Sunflower founder Kathy Krumme, then brought it into the house and hung it on her bedroom wall. “When I brought the bike home,” she said with a laugh, “my husband thought I was going to put it in bed with me.”
And if you’re not having a Cammy day by now, this little video is certain to put a smile on your face.
— Cindy Starr