On a rainy spring afternoon the clouds finally parted for Laura Knittel’s inaugural bike ride of the season, her preferred exercise and commute to her job at the Hoboken Public Library.
Knittel tackles this bike ride much like she has the year: head on, promising to make time for wellness. She shares her story as we pedal through Church Square Park.
“As of February of this year I decided to begin using a life coach for what’s next for me, and one of my goals is to lose weight and improve my personal style,” Knittel said. She now works out three or four times a week.
“My life has been an incredible journey of ups and downs,” she said. “I will say that it has given me such incredible strength, resolve, compassion, and the longing to grow, every day of my life a little closer to joy, contentment, and inner peace.”
One such down was a two-year battle with cancer.
“I was diagnosed in 2006 with stage 3A Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, had my chemo treatments all through 2007, and in early 2008 was told I beat it,” Knittel said. “It is 2017, and as of last May, I am still winning, no cancer. I never take anything for granted, not that I am living on borrowed time, but I realize that tomorrow is never promised.”
Knittel said she doesn’t fear death.
“I faced and danced with that subject while under my chemo treatments,” she said. “I clearly remember as the chemo ran through my veins, making a conscious choice to live or die internally. It was a profoundly deep and meditative state, but nevertheless I am so grateful I was able to experience this and live to tell you about it.”
Cancer, she said, is a “driving force that leaves me unstoppable and wanting to lead others to get beyond all that stops them from seeing their strength and obstacles.”
Knittel lives by this dictum: “Our minds are our crowning assets and our ultimate battlegrounds.”
“Imagine if we all took more accountability for who we are and expanded our own growth to full potential with love, compassion, and intelligence,” she said. “It would have lasting effects that would ripple beyond our friends and family the world over.”
Knittel donates time to the LGBTQ community at the new Hudson Pride Connection Center.
Her partner of 12 years is Katya Diez Presilla, who came from Cuba in 2005, the year they met. They were married at Hoboken City Hall in spring 2013. “We married in 2013 because it became legal for us to marry that year,” Knittel said. “It is important for people to learn and understand that, had we been given the right to marry before that, we would have.”
She points to misconceptions about LGBTQ relationships.
“We are sometimes marginalized and thought not to be able to have long-term relationships, but here we are.”
Knittel also volunteers at the Hoboken Shelter and the Jubilee Center, and helps out coworkers at the Hoboken Public Library
“For whatever we take of this world we should leave something in its place,” she said. “I have a vision to leave the world a better place than I found it, to serve others, to love fully, and share this journey of life with all those who would like to do so as well.”
Her interests and causes are wide-ranging.
“I am passionate about arts and culture, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, social justice, and humanitarian issues,” she said. Last September she helped stage a rally to support Father Warren Hall, a priest who was dismissed by the Archbishop of Newark reportedly for embracing gay rights and for backing Kate Drumgoole, a Paramus Catholic High School faculty member fired for being in a same-sex marriage.
“I have learned the more we care for others the greater sense of wellbeing there will be in all areas of our lives and around the world,” Knittel said. “This to me is the greatest source for a successful life.”—07030