Today, a close friend called, with jaw-dropping news. His son was diagnosed with cancer. The news made my heart drop, and his words, “I knew you would understand, you have been there. I am trying to deal with my own emotions, let alone understand what he is going through.” I remember the feeling of not knowing what to say. Yes it is true, the dreaded “C” word had been spoken to me a few times in my life, and I had received the same reaction from family. When cancer shows up in someone’s life, words are lost, emotions are high, tears stream down cheeks, and for a moment it feels as if time has stopped. And, the reality sets in. There are tests, surgeries, doctors appointments, missed work, schedule changes, pillow tears, behind closed door conversations, doubts, fears, and moments of weakness.
The one who receives the diagnosis is often in shock. Not sure what to say, what to do, and how to tell others. Close family and friends that hear the news first, are usually blind-sided, and words cannot come out of their mouths. I remember lying in the hospital bed awaiting surgery to have my uterus removed. At 22 years old after five years of fighting endometriosis and tumors, I asked the doctor to do a partial hysterectomy. After a few months, he agreed. Prepped for surgery, my OB/GYN approached my bedside, “I was going to come in today and tell you I was not going to do surgery, but I just received your lab results, and you have cancer.” I was speechless. Somehow I had known it, and I will never forget the doctor telling me, “You saved your life.”
Those words, you have cancer, came two more times in my life. As a result both of my ovaries were removed, at the age of 25, my world was much different than I had ever envisioned. Surgeries, scars, and tears had taken so much of it. I smiled and told everyone I was great, choosing to remain strong, to remain positive. When I had breast lumps removed at the age of 30, I thought for sure, this might be the end. When the doctor called to tell me they were benign, something inside of me told me to go out and live life.
I had danced since I was five years old, and teaching until I was thirty. After this surgery, I gave it up, and exchanged it for writing and getting lost in my words. Life changed. I started over essentially. A new outlook, a new attitude, and a new city. It was here that I knew I could do or be anything, and my #dreambigger attitude took on the world. This past March, when my girlfriend Jen asked to me run a half marathon with her, I laughed. I thought to myself, I can’t even run a mile, I hate running, and my body physically can’t do it. When she told me it was for cancer, and that we could run because people fighting cancer could not, I was #allin. I agreed. I ran a mile here and there, and laughed about how was I ever going to cross the finish line.
Today, I ran 6.25 miles. Saturday I will run 10 miles. I am not flaunting that I can run this far, because I will tell you there has been blood, sweat, and tears getting here. When I want to give up, I think about the doctor telling me I had cancer. I think about my friends or members of their families who are battling this disease. I think about all the Facebook posts asking for help or prayers because of cancer. Most of all, I think about the children who have been diagnosed with cancer, and they may never run, travel, or play again.
My training schedule is grueling. The 30 miles a week I am running is hard to fit in. It has taken dedication and commitment. I have run in Chile, Dallas, Salt Lake City, Jackson Hole, Friendsville Maryland, Mérida, Sisal, Asheville, and will soon be running in Europe to complete what I started out to achieve. On October 31, 2015, Jen and I will run the Jazz half marathon in New Orleans, LA. It will be my first half marathon, and some of the most intense training I have ever done.
Today when my friend called, I wanted to cry. When I hung up the phone, it reminded me of why I am running. It reminded me that Cancer sucks, and it reminded me of my battles with this stupid disease. I always wondered how my parents felt and what they were experiencing when I battled cancer. Cancer does not only affect the individual diagnosed, it brings emotion, fear, and change to the people who are in their circles. It alters perceptions, and it hurts. The call today brought to light the question of how my friends and family felt, and how they coped. The dynamics of my cancer had an impact on my mom and dad. Their only daughter would never have children of her own, and to this day my heart sinks for how they might have felt or still feel.
This running is to not just talk about cancer, but it is to say I get it. Cancer does suck. It hurts for all of the people who are near and dear to that person. For the children in the world fighting cancer – this one is for you, your parents, your friends, your family. “You’ve got this, you can do it, and you can beat cancer. Dream Bigger!”
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