I have been doing a lot of two things lately: working (medical writing stuff) and running. I think I have a touch of childhood cancer blogger-writer block. I do plan to elaborate about some comments made in my prior post, about competition in the childhood cancer community, but I am not in the right mindset to do that right now. I am going to take this opportunity to talk about the month of October, as a follow-up to my Shocker of a Vacation blog last month. I’m not going to talk about October in the context of Breast Cancer Awareness month, as I already voiced my stance on that (Gold vs Pink).
This morning I ran the Annual the Oley Valley Country Classic 10 miler. I was not planning to run this race but just can’t resist it. It is like runner’s nirvana, a rural course nestled in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch farm country in the midst of fall foliage season. I ran this particular race twice during the late 2000s, prior to having my 2 daughters, and again last year. Last year’s race was a doozie! I was coming off of 20 months of breastfeeding my younger daughter and was still in the process of losing the 60+ pounds of pregnancy weight, but I decided to subject my out-of-shape self to this race as a “challenge” to myself. Oh, and a challenge it was. The good news is that I finished, and with an “OK” time considering where I was at fitness-wise. The bad news was that I felt so incredibly ill during the entire 10 miles, and the entire day, and also for practically the entire week afterward. My time and ranking were not a priority to me, but I did notice something in the results. A 73 year-old woman had come in right before me! I will admit, that this was a bit of a blow to my running ego but, at the same time, it really served to motivate me to get into much better shape so that I could someday be THAT lady. I don’t want to be gone from this earth at age 50 like my dad or at age 62 like my mom. I want to be running 10 miles at 73 and counting and coming in ahead of 38 year olds like moi!!! My parents were relatively healthy and had no real medical history to speak of, yet they still died young; however, they were not runners and not nearly as active as me. Maybe, just maybe, running will be my key to a long, healthy life, or maybe not. Honestly, who cares? Not me. I absolutely LOVE running irrespective of the health benefits and, if I had the choice, would opt to be scooped up from the side of the road after suffering a mid-run heart attack than spend my final days suffering from cancer like my mom did. Anyhow, today’s run was amazingly awesome! I have to say that I have worked hard to get myself back together and it has paid off. I ran much stronger and faster. Yay, maybe I will make it to 73+ after all! Last year, making it from 38 to 39 was seeming to be a stretch!
I ran in the 2nd Annual Steph’s Fall 5k, which was a big deal for me. The race was held about 2 miles from where I grew up. I have a general “no visiting the Wilkes-Barre, PA area” policy because of the emotional toll: both of my parents spent their entire lives there, and now that they are gone, I vowed to never return. But time does heal, as they say, and it became apparent that it was more important for me to support this race than to avoid the past. So I trekked my butt up there and put a big smile on my face in doing it. As for this race, Stephanie Godri-Johnson was the much younger sister of my former high school classmate, Maria. Stephanie had passed away in May 2012, at age 32, from a colon cancer of a very rare histology. She was an avid runner, former student athlete, military wife, and the mother to two young children. She was diagnosed 3 months after having her second child and battled for about 18 months. I encourage you to read her story here: http://stephsfall5k.com/index.php/about/stephanie-story.
A giant THANK YOU to Stephanie, for being such an awesome person and for inspiring others to follow her lead, and for her wonderful family for putting together such a lovely race to honor her memory while helping others. I’m just not sure that I would be here right now, in the midst of childhood cancer advocacy and fundraising, if it were not for this untimely loss of such a vibrant life. I became a sponsor for her run and, by doing so, it instilled in me a nagging want and need to do even more. My mother was not a runner and actually despised running, so a memorial run in her memory would have been blasphemy. In my search for a different avenue, I decided to focus my attention on the kids and develop an event where kids could do their part to help their fellow kids with cancer.
I attended a childhood cancer fundraising event on October 13th, which was the Get Well Gabby Foundation’s Carnival for a Cure in Phoenixville, PA. Gabby was 5 years old when she developed and passed away from a DIPG. Gabby was preparing to start Kindergarten when she was diagnosed. When I first read about her, I was in the midst of Kindergarten prep for my older daughter. Needless to say, that struck a nerve. Both of my daughters came to the carnival, and I have never, ever seen them both so happy at the same time. Very bittersweet, as they say.
Yippee for me, October 21st was my 39th birthday. I have reached the final year of a crazy decade, during which I gave birth twice and lost my mother in between. I can only hope that my 40s are less eventful. October 21 is not just a birthday. It has a different meaning for me, as it was the day that I personally broke the news to my mom that she had cancer. She had surgery that day, and nobody was around except me when she emerged from the anesthesia. She pressed me about what the verdict was, “how did it go? what did they say?” she kept asking. I was forced to tell her the truth: that she had very advanced stage III cancer, that the tumor was firmly attached to many of her organs so the surgery could not be completed as planned, and that she would need to start chemotherapy ASAP and make another attempt at the surgery in a few months. Her surgeon tried to put a positive spin on the situation, but I knew in my heart of hearts that this was the beginning of the end for her. So I cried a continual stream of tears while delivering this news, despite trying so hard to keep it together. In my mind, I was giving her a death sentence. Well, how’s that for a Happy Birthday (I was 34), yowza! But after that heart-wrenching day, I managed to put on the most positive face possible, even though I still thought she was doomed. She only saw tears one other day, and that was toward the end.
Author: Laurie O