Running has always been my thing. It started when I was 14 after my mother passed away from breast cancer and it continued after my father unexpectedly passed away 2 years later. Running became my coping method and a huge stress reliever to help ease my mind in those first few years after losing my parents. During that time, running was the one constant thing I could do in my otherwise constantly changing world. It was also the one thing that I felt couldn’t be taken away. Running was my saving grace.
As the years progressed, from high school to college and motherhood, I continued to fuel my desire to run on a regular basis. During these years, I was at the peak of my running and it felt great. However, in 2015 my running world came crashing down. At the age of 30, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Through the initial phases, appointments, and additional testing, I continued to run knowing that it would only be a matter of time before I would have to take a break. Fast forward to a few weeks after the diagnosis, I had my bilateral mastectomy and then shortly thereafter I started chemotherapy and I was completely sidelined. For the first time in years, I couldn’t run.
The months during my chemotherapy were a time of uncertainty but I clung to hope. Hope for better days and hope for strength. As I recovered from the surgeries, I started walking more and more as my strength increased. Shortly after, I started using a stationary bike and implemented some light weights. I also enrolled in a program through the YMCA (After Breast Cancer) that was designed solely for individuals impacted by breast cancer. Then, I got a crazy idea as I felt my strength improving. I was going to run. Not just run, I was going to run a ½ marathon. With that, I started increasing my activity. It wasn’t always easy (there were plenty of tears!) and sometimes I wasn’t able to do everything that I had previously done, but what really mattered was that I was giving all I could. As the months passed, I was able to start running again; albeit a much slower pace! As I ran more, I not only physically felt better but mentally as well. I wasn’t only working out my body but also my mind. Running was once again able to be a saving grace for me.
Fast forward to this past April when I was finally able to run my first ½ marathon (St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll) since being diagnosed and I cannot believe what a difference a year has made. Exactly a year after having a total hysterectomy and oophorectomy, I was running a half marathon. I was moving and enjoying every minute. It was liberating! Throughout the training and actual race day, I met many individuals who provided encouraging words, but perhaps the most poignant moment in this year happened during the race. Halfway through the ½ marathon, I ran into three individuals’. One women in a wheelchair and the other two were taking turns pushing her (all while running!). It wasn’t long till I found out that the women in the wheelchair was also a recent breast cancer survivor and just had a surgery the prior week. It gave me chills and brought back vivid memories given that just a year earlier, I was in her situation. Here was a woman, a week out from surgery, showing up to participate in a marathon. It was amazing. She was amazing. Before we parted ways, she said she hoped to walk the race next year. I gave her my information and told her if she did, I would be right there with her; every step of the way.
In that moment, I realized that it didn’t matter how you got to that finish line, all that mattered was that you got there. My times are no longer those of an elite runner, but for me, it was an accomplishment to not only cross the finish line but to also line up at the starting line.