A Powerful Story of Triumph
To many of those familiar with Team In Training, I am sure my story is not an exceptional one. Yet to others, I am called inspirational, strong, a role-model. I am embarrassed by those terms. I have only done what I needed to in order to survive, and nothing that can't be done by almost anyone else, if they wanted to. For those new to TNT, maybe my story will help give additional meaning to the cause, and help motivate some to sign up for an event of their own.
I decided to sign up for a TNT race and fundraiser because a family member was diagnosed with Lymphoma for the second time in their life. The idea stemmed from two things: a co-worker of mine was an avid runner, and had all kinds of race posters at her desk, and I heard a radio personality talking about their involvement with TNT. I made a promise that when we got through the battle with cancer, I would sign up for a race, since the cause was close to heart. It would be almost three years before that came to pass.
In that time, my family member- my husband of over 20 years, Kerry- battled lymphoma for the second time. He had had Hodgkin's lymphoma when he was just 23, back when we were dating. He put that one in remission, and we went on to live and love for over two wonderful decades. Then he got really sick on Christmas break. Had night sweats that drenched the bed a few months later. Developed severe debilitating back pain over the summer where he was almost rendered unable to walk. After 20+ years of being cancer-free came a second diagnosis of lymphoma, a different kind than previous. Over the course of two and half years, he went through numerous rounds of chemo, and two stem cell transplants. Ultimately the fight proved too much for his body, and he passed away from complications.
I was devastated. How could a strong, wonderful man not triumph? Such is the beast that is cancer. There is no rhyme or reason to who lives and who dies, and the treatments, while better than years ago, can still be very hard on a body already weakened by the disease. It was in the dark months following his death that I remembered my promise. I had another promise to fulfill by then as well. During the years that we battled with his cancer, my own health did not fare so well. The stress wreaked havoc on my system. I gained weight, and lost quite a bit of my own fitness (not that it was ever exceptional). He made me promise to look after myself and get back in shape should anything happen to him. He wanted me to live well and long if he could not. So with those two promises, and not much else to cling to in my depression, I contacted Team In Training. They assured me that I could indeed go from a couch potato to running a half marathon in six months, so I signed up.
Running turned out to be almost meditative for me, a therapy in and of itself. I am not fast, but I don't have to be. I just have to be out there, moving. When I run, my mind stops its fretting and worrying. I forget about the things that are bothering me. I forget about being sad. I forget about my anger at the unfairness of the world. My feet simply move to a set rhythm, and I am at peace.
It was not an easy journey to get to the start of that race, which was my first distance race of any kind, but it was probably the journey that saved me, and showed me that life was still precious and worth living. I met so many great people who were running for their own reasons. Some with TNT, some for other charities, all for reasons that meant something. I ran for Kerry, and I ran for so many others that I heard about during my fundraising. I finished the race smiling, because I had done it, for them. The adage is true that you never know how strong you are until being strong is all you have left.
I set an initial fundraising goal of just $2500, enough to cover the minimum for my race, and raise some additional for The Leukemia and Lymphoma society of Canada. I reached that goal in about two weeks, with the outpouring of support from my friends and colleagues who also were looking for a way to show their support to me. So I upped my goal. I did that another two times before the end of the fundraising period. By the end, I had raised over $9000. I still can't believe how generous everyone around me was. There are not enough thanks for what that meant to me, and what it means to those that will benefit from LLSC's work.
After running my first race with TNT, I went on to run the Tinkerbell Half at Disney California. Tinkerbell was one of Kerry's favorite Disney characters, so I just had to do the race. I also have done two Ottawa Winterman 10k's, the Perth Kilt Run 8k, and the Army Run Half. The races help motivate me and keep me training.
Now I am back for my second TNT race, one and a half years after the first one. It will be a local one in my city, so that all those that sponsored me in the past, and those that will sponsor me now, have the chance to cheer me on in person if they want to. I would do TNT races more often, but I don't want to wear out my welcome on the fundraising with my friends and family. So I plan to do a race every 2 years or so, give or take 6 months. For as long as I am able to. I saw TNT now has cycling events too, so I may mix up the running with some of those. Even if I can no longer run at some point, I will still fundraise for The Leukemia and Lymphoma society through Light the Night, or any of their other options.
I raise money for LLSC because I want to help fund research into better cures. I don't want to see other families go through what Kerry and I have.
You can read more about my initial TNT journey on my personal blog, http://geekgalruns.blogspot.ca/