|From April 2013 to November 2014|
Yes we can write personal blogs, post pictures, share stories, #cancer and load our trollies with a hundred pink-ribbon products but nothing says Survive like Thrive. It's how we lend hope. How we spread optimism. How we shine that light so brightly that others can't miss it. When we thrive, we inspire. I'm not talking about an inspirational message with a photograph of a cat on your Facebook page. I don't see anyone reclaiming their lives because Sam the Siamese says to do so. To truly motivate you have to set out to actually do something. The week after I finished chemo, I decided that, in order to inspire others to believe, to know, to feel it in their aching Neulasta-injected bones, that there is not only life after Cancer and Chemo, there's A Life, that I would run a marathon. When it came to my Cancer experience I had a personal motto: Get through it and move on. I didn't just move on, I ran on, Kenyan style.
Of course this did not happen overnight. My brother, my dog and I hit the trail that first week. It was not a glorious moment. I did not hear trumpets, there were no Katy Perry songs about my sports bra. My running comeback went about as well as Anthony Weiner's 2013 return to politics, embarrassingly dismal in a what the fuck are you thinking way. I managed a half mile, walking. Then I slept the rest of the day.
Writing allows me the benefit of time-travel and spares you the mundane training schedule I stuck to (on and off, with another reconstruction operation in between) for months. I worked on my strength, built endurance with snail-like slowness, ate as vegan as possible and always believed my little engine could.
On November 2nd 2014 I ran the NYC marathon. 26.2 miles in 4h45.
My aim had always been to run for those about to go through and come out of Cancer/Chemo. I always knew I'd blog about it, spread the word. But, just before the race, I had moment's misgiving that I was really just running for personal attention. I questioned my intent, was I narcissistically using my Cancer ala Lance Armstrong for personal glory? Now that the race is over, I can honestly say that, while I obviously received immense personal joy and gain from it, I genuinely ran as proof that we, as humans, are capable of so much more. Our bodies can be trained to overcome even the worst odds. There is a more noble reason why we physically push our bodies to the brink, and it is to validate human ability, endurance and spirit. I learnt this not from within, I learnt it reading the backs of my fellow runners.
So many people ran the marathon for a cause, in memory of, or for someone else. "I'm running for uncle Jack, 9/11". "I'm running for my mother/father/brother/sister". The messages were abundant and heart-breaking. I wondered: "Why run for the dead?" And then I understood. They weren't running for those passed, they were running for those living. A testament to survival. Thousands of these runners were running for the exact same reason I was. We are here to thrive.
You know that feeling when you’re almost in a car accident? A moment’s shock, a shake of your head at how short life is, the rest of the ride vowing to change everything wrong in your life. And then you get to work/school/wherever and all is forgotten. Things carry on exactly the same. It can be like that with Cancer.
When you have finished treatment and your Oncologist tells you that you’re the healthiest person she’s seen all week, things go back to normal. You can go days without thinking about Cancer, weeks even. And all those things you were going to do when you got well, fell by the wayside. You will not go live on a tropical Island. You will not quit your job. You will not hold up a boom box to your now married high school sweetheart and blast out Peter Gabriel.
Life takes over. And it’s the same. It shouldn't be.
Now I'm not insinuating that every cancer survivor should run a marathon. I think if I had known what those last 6 miles of pain, freezing wind, tornados of gatorade cups, banana-peel-covered roads and more pain would be like, I would have opted for a half-marathon. But here I am, having finished a marathon, living proof that we can. We can win. I am suggesting, prodding, provoking everyone to maximize their living and show those just diagnosed we can get better. We can get better than better. We can get greater. We can thrive.
I wanted to just shout out to my dear friend Lex. She was the reason I finished this marathon. We ran together and she literally pulled me at some points. Thanks Lex, you are an inspiration to every mom who says: "Oh I just don't have the time." Check her incredible life out at http://iamfancypants.com