Saturday, June 6th, was a beautiful day in Texas for many reasons.
Marshall and I had committed to be a part of the Susan G Komen 5k Race for the Cure. Of course I was really excited about the race because it was an opportunity for ME to stretch MYSELF and get one step closer to MY DREAM of running a half marathon. Over 14,000 people gathered to participate in this very symbolic race. It was early still and the sun was peaking through the clouds and a cool breeze managed to post pone the pending heat. We stretched and warmed our bodies up for the 3.1 miles to come. The announcer droned on continuously with facts and statistics about breast cancer and how our involvement in this race and raising funds was saving lives. Not that I didn’t care. I DO care. The thing is: I was ready to run! I’d been training and I had a personal time to beat.
After what seemed like an hour of babbling announcements, picture taking and jazzercise warm-ups, Olympic Gold Medalist Nastia Liukin took the starting pistol in hand and at it’s command we were off. Now imagine 14, 000 people all trying to go the same direction on a five lane road. It’s a slow process at first, but I found myself weaving here and there through little crevices of people so I could GET MOVING and get to a place where I had some room to really start running. It was truly exhilarating when I finally got up to speed and found a steady running rhythm. It sure felt great!
For about a mile.
And then I noticed it.
A pink paper attached with safety pins to the t-shirts of several runners. Some said “In celebration of” while others said, “In memory of” with a name printed on it. As I continued to run, I was able to read many. “In memory of Nana”. “In celebration of Marie.” It wasn’t difficult for me to piece together the possible stories and meanings behind each of these pink sheets. Nana had lost her fight with breast cancer while Marie struggled through to a victory.
These little pink papers were attached to the backs of many, many runners. As I would come close to a bearer of one of these signs, I would find myself getting choked up over a sister who had passed away and a mother who had fought hard for her life and survived.
Overwhelmed by these portable memorials I found my pace slowing and the emotions of these women and their stories overtaking me in a way that at one point I was unsure if I would be able to continue.
It was in those moments that my mind wondered how these fighters must have felt in the heat of their battle with such a deadly enemy. Did they give up or quit? Or did they continue to fight pulling their strength from within, and from family and from their faith in God. As these stories were played out in my mind’s eye, I knew I COULD NOT stop!
As I made my way to the finish line with a time of 40 minutes, the emotions could no longer be held back and I began to weep. I had made it. I had endured.
I had “endured”:
- the exhilaration of the race
- the discomfort of heat
- water stops available every quarter mile
- a nice breeze with every step
- a slight pain in my side on mile 2
- the temporal uneasy breathing associated with that last bit of a hill
- and the “disappointment” that I had not beat my personal best time
Forty minutes. How many days and years and lifetimes are stolen through the beast of cancer?
Those who are diagnosed with breast cancer live through more than 40 minutes of discomfort.
They must endure:
- surgeries which often result in the removal of one or both breasts
- chemotherapy which has such side effects as loss of appetite, hair loss, nausea and vomiting… just to name a few
- hormonal therapies
- reconstructive surgeries… although many women do not have this option and never feel the same about their bodies
- and the possibility of the return of the cancer
My forty minutes were NOTHING. And although I would never want to find myself in a place where I had been diagnosed with cancer, I pray that I would be able to run as so many women have run before in this race for the cure.
To donate to the Susan G Komen Foundation follow this link.