The Grunt Style No. 76 Camaro will carry the name Liz Alarik on its passenger door at the Drive for the Cure 200 as the NASCAR Xfinity Series makes history as the first NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course. Elizabeth Alarik is a breast cancer survivor and wife of Grunt Style CEO, Daniel Alarik.
Spencer Boyd knew the story of Liz’s battle with cancer having been part of the Grunt Style family for three seasons now. What he didn’t know was the inspiration it could bring to many other women faced with the same situation. “It is a part of her life that I wanted to know more about,” said Boyd. “What I didn’t know is how much it would affect my outlook on life, so I wanted to use the platform I have to retell her story hoping that many more can benefit.”
Liz and her husband Daniel started Grunt Style in 2009 working tirelessly to build their business and the brand. Long days, sleepless nights, and bringing their young son Ethan along for the ride was the norm for this young family fresh out of the Army. What wasn’t part of the business plan was the stage three aggressive breast cancer diagnosis Liz was given on December 1, 2014. The cancer was discovered via an annual visit because for a woman in her thirties, feeling anything other than worn out was just part of her career and taking care of a five year old. The following year would change Liz’s life forever…
“I wasn’t ashamed by the diagnosis. It’s not contagious,” remarked Liz in an interview. “I knew I had a rough road ahead of me so I used Facebook as a tool to let everyone know. I felt connected with my friends and family as the outpouring of support came in. At the same time, I didn’t want it to consume my life. I still woke up at 5:30 to work out. I went to the office every day. I changed my diet and focused on healthy living to help me through what I knew was coming next.”
Liz would undergo six rounds of chemotherapy in the ensuing months, a lumpectomy to remove the masses, and radiation every day after the surgery. “There were definitely ups and downs during treatment,” reflected Alarik. “I lost my hair 2 weeks into treatment which was devastating emotionally for me. Certainly the diagnosis was hard to deal with at first, but my hair is a major part of my femininity and what makes me feel pretty. I decided to shave my head and get a wig. The boys, Ethan and Daniel, shaved theirs as well to show their love and support.”
An unexpected part of the process was Liz’s inability to connect with other women in her situation. As breast cancer does not typically affect women in their twenties and thirties, most of the women in the support groups she found were in their fifties and sixties. Liz said, “I had to pick up my child from school right after treatment. The older women had their children bringing them. I couldn’t connect because our lives and experiences with the disease were so different. It took some time, but I finally found a group and have kept in contact with my ‘sisters in sickness’ to this day.”
In follow up visits in November and December of 2015, Liz was given a clean bill of health by her doctors. Her experience gave her insight into how she wanted to continue the healthy living lifestyle she had developed over the previous year. “Everyone deals with it differently. Some survivors say ‘I made it through that scare’ and continue on with their life. That’s okay. I wanted to live better and enjoy what is important. I realized not only that I wanted to spend more time with family and friends, but that I’m important too. I take more time for myself and have since retired from my position at Grunt Style so that I can see Ethan grow up. Cancer didn’t define me…it was hard to deal with, but it has made me a better person. I challenge all the women out there who have been diagnosed with this question, ‘What are you going to do after that day?’ and let your innermost reason for living shine for the rest of your life.
As Spencer Boyd and the Grunt Style Gladiators head into this weekend’s Drive for the Cure 200 at the Roval with pink camo on the nose of their Camaro, they will be reminded of Liz and her journey…a journey of not only beating cancer, but improving her life as a person. Liz Alarik is an inspiration to women with cancer. She is our hero. She reminds us that we have control over our outlook on life and for this team, we choose hope.