Yesterday, I professed my dedication to the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team and explained how I was glowing with pride as I ran the marathon course in my DFMC singlet. I also explained how I would not have wanted to run for any other team… which is mostly true. There is one small caveat to this statement, though. Within the DFMC team, there is an even smaller team of which I am most proud to be a member – The Living Proof Team. It is solely comprised of… you guessed it – Living Proof that we can beat cancer! We represent how far cancer treatment has come and provide proof that donations for cancer research make a difference.
My pride for The Living Proof Team is shadowed only by the admiration I have for my teammates. As someone who endured two rounds of intense induction chemotherapy, total body irradiation, more chemo, graft versus host disease, grand mal seizures induced by drug toxicity, 13 years of coping with probable infertility, and a host of other long-term side effects, I got used to thinking I didn’t have it easy. That was until I met my Living Proof Teammates.
|A quick shot for the camera with Lynda
during the infamous long-run.
Only a couple of months ago, I arrived at a 16 mile DFMC long-run and as I did with all long-runs, I put on my heart rate monitor and started running. That day proved to be a particularly challenging day for me. My heart rate was through the roof and I felt exhausted only 5-6 miles into the run. I started feeling a little frustrated that I had to overcome treatment related heart-issues. It wasn’t long though, before I started running with someone who would quickly change my perspective. Lynda Nijensohn was also feeling frustrated that day because her legs weren’t performing up to par. Don’t get me wrong – she was running good 10-10.5 min miles – but she wasn’t happy with how she felt. As I started chatting with her, I realized that her legs felt rotten not because she was having a ‘bad day’ but because less than 48 hours prior she received treatment at Dana-Farber. Lynda is a breast cancer survivor who endured 4.5 months of chemo followed by 5 surgeries and 6.5 weeks of radiation, all while taking care of her 1 and 3 year old children. As she proceeded to drop me and said she’d see me soon, I thought, “This girl is crazy…. and I love it!” Needless to say, Lynda’s courage and persistence helped me get through the remainder of that long-run and is likely what jump started our friendship (our mutual love for Stowe, VT also probably had something to do with it). Lyn-Deez, you rock!
|Lyn-Deez, in all her glory on
As a cancer survivor, it is sometimes hard to explain to others how the disease has forever changed you – the fears of recurrence and secondary malignancy, frustration with the long-term side effects, and the guilt that you made it through while others did not. However, in the company of other survivors, not only do you not have to explain your emotions but you feel unspoken support. There are many members of the Living Proof Team that I met for the first time on marathon weekend, yet within minutes, felt like I had known for years. Eileen, Claire, Jacqueline, and of course, Lynda – you are all amazing women and I am so fortunate to have met you! This also goes for Hedi, the amazing marathoner and breast cancer survivor whom I met at mile 2 and brought me in through the finish line.
|Living Proof Team group shot with the entire DFMC team.
Lynda and I are standing front and center (I’m rocking the pink hat).
My final thought and today’s pre-Marathon Mention:
In the photo above, you can see the Living Proof Team huddled around a sign displaying all of our names on small stars. What you cannot pull from this photo, is the amazing sense of hope that echoed through the entire DFMC group as each Living Proof Teammate came forward for the picture. Although for just one moment we may have felt like stars, it was only because we represented something far greater – PROOF that we can beat cancer! As I smiled for this picture and fought back tears, I knew that I was incredibly fortunate. Cancer sucks but without it, I would not feel so ALIVE!
“The worst thing in your life may contain the seeds of the best.”
~ Joe Kogel, cancer survivor