I’m sitting here trying to edit my cancer story into something short enough that you will read the whole thing while still making it meaningful, not an easy task. Over the years I’ve gotten used to sharing it in bits and pieces depending on what will have the most impact in any given moment. Then a couple weeks ago I had a moment the required sharing all the ways in which cancer has touched my life. Sharing it left an oncology social worker speechless with tears running down her face and me feeling stronger and more determined than ever.
Many people know that I run in memory of my husband and my uncle. A few more know that I also run in memory of a friend’s little boy. Most never know just how much cancer has shaped my life. Once of my earliest memories is of a bright summer day and waiting anxiously for a friend to arrive at the park so we could play together…I wasn’t even four yet. I remember the adults gathering together and the whispered word, leukemia, and being told my friend wouldn’t be coming to the park any more. By the time I was seven I’d lost three friends to leukemia. I believed to the depth of my soul that it was what got you if your hands or feet hung off the edge of the bed at night. There has not been a single day of my life I haven’t been aware of cancer and what it does.
Three of my four grandparents died of cancer.
My mother has had cancer twice.
One of my aunts had cancer.
My sister has had cancer twice, undergoing chemo as an infant, and again as a teenager.
The list goes on, and on…right up to me. No, I haven’t had cancer but am considered to be at high risk for developing some kind of rare cancer in my life. Five times more likely than the average person…honestly I try never to dwell on that statistic. Especially in relation to just how common blood cancers are, it’s too scary.
So I’m here, on the team, training every day, praying with every footstep. For myself, for all of you, for every person who hears the words, “You have cancer.” When I’m asked why I run, why I continue to be part of TNT I tell people this is where I draw a line in the sand and fight. This is where I declare “Cancer will not win!” I am here because to my very core I am a cancer survivor, it’s just never been my own cancer. Again and again I’ve said goodbye, picked up the pieces of my heart and gone on. Every time I remember the sorrow, the pain, the fear, it renews my commitment to making sure the day comes when no one has to walk that path.
I know some of you are here because you have very personal connections. Others are here for a variety of different reasons. Each and every one of you is a fellow warrior in the fight to end cancer and whether we meet at an event one day or not you strengthen me and build my courage, you inspire me every day to give just a little more. You are my heroes.