Monday, August 24, 2009

LivingSTRONG

A couple of months back I signed up for the Philly LiveSTRONG Challenge 5K.  There were so many reasons as to why I signed up:

  1. I’ve been a fan of Lance Armstrong ever since I read his first autobiography. 
  2. I love to sign up for runs and I needed another 5K to set my sights on breaking my current PR.
  3. Being part of something huge would be a plus.

Little did I know, at that time, would number 3 eventually be my number 1. 

My inbox was flooded with emails from the organization with fundraising tips, info on upcoming Challenges, the latest news on it’s campaign to ‘go global’ with the cancer fight, etc.  I read almost every email and clicked on every link.  I was motivated to spread the word, raise awareness and raise money.

I teamed up with a fellow co-worker/friend and we focused on motivating our peers to join us in the fight.  We eventually became a team of nine with over $2000 in donations. 

My motivation had deep roots…  Earlier that year a superior of mine had lost her young daughter to cancer.  I witness the devastation that the disease had caused this innocent family.  As a Mom, it hurt me deeply.  Every night, for weeks, I cried as I put my beautiful daughter to bed.  I prayed that I’d never see my family go through such turmoil, that I’d never see my daughter go through physical pain…that I’d never live to the day in which I saw my daughter go before me.   Part of me felt guilty that I had a healthy family; the other part of me was downright angry that this was happening at all. 

I was determined to help out in some way…

A few weeks before the Challenge, that heartbroken mother visited me at work with a donation in hand.  After accepting the much appreciated donation, in memory of her daughter, she opened her palm and presented me with a white ribbon.  Written across the ribbon was her daughter’s name.  I immediately knew the history behind the ribbon – another co-worker had pinned it to her shirt before the Lehigh Valley 1/2 Marathon.  Names of those being remembered or honored were pinned to her shirt.  My mission was to carry her name on through the next race. 

I because just a tad annoying with my solicitations, but when you believe in something…you’ll push it so far.

This past Saturday morning I checked the donation list and had raised $600 for the Challenge.  I was thrilled to smash my original goal of $250.  After heading down to the LiveSTRONG Village to pick up my packed I headed home to pick up Ava and hit the Wal-Mart for yellow ribbon and pins. 

That night, with butterflies in my stomach, I wrote names on 12 ribbons; names of people who were remembered and honored by the donations I had collected.  I carefully pinned them to my shirt and eventually went to bed.

I was jolted out of bed just a few hours later by a buzzing alarm clock.  I got ready, woke up the rest of the fam and headed to Blue Bell.  It took some time for me to get centered – thousands of people, lots of signs to read, a dull headache and more butterflies.  It wasn’t until I kissed Marcus and Ava that I was able to take a decent breath and walk to the start line.

Starting the race took longer than expected.  After a 30 minute delay and waiting for all the cyclists to go before me, I said a short prayer and hit the pavement.  It wasn’t my motivation to post a good time that kept my legs moving…it was the fire in my belly – which I guess killed off the butterflies!  I was experiencing so much emotion during the run that I couldn’t stop moving…at one point I was running a 7:38 minute mile.  Maybe that doesn’t sound too fast to you, but I’m not even 5’2” with even shorter legs…THAT’S ROCKET SPEED FOR A SHORTY LIKE ME! 

Towards the end of the run I passed my team leader, but decided to hang back a little for us to cross the finish line together.  It was quite poetic…and cheesy, I guess…  We did this together; it only seemed right to finish together.  We crossed the line and I stopped my watch at 27:17…it happens to be a PR.  :)

Before I headed back to my family a familiar voice shouted my name and I immediately scanned the crowd.  An old co-worker behind the finish line was waving at me with a huge smile on her face.  I learned a few months ago that her young daughter has been fighting Leukemia.  A mutual friend had made a donation to me in her daughter’s honor.  I proudly walked over to her and displayed her daughter’s ribbon…she was so excited…even took a picture.  She didn’t care how sweaty or stinky I was…she reached over the fence and grabbed me for a hug.  It was great.  I was proud that day. 

I found my family and most of my team…we all felt so great, in so many ways. 

On the way home I reminded my husband that I also ran in memory of his mother.  I never had the opportunity to meet her, but she must have been an amazing woman.  After all she raised him.

 

***It’s been over 15 years since I lost my grandfather to lung cancer due to asbestos exposure, but his memory is fresh in my mind.  I still glance at the picture I have on my nightstand of us dancing at my aunt’s wedding.  I remember him asking the photographer for that shot.  It saddens me that he didn’t see me grow up, get married and see his beautiful great-granddaughter, but I know he’s watching.  I hate that my grandmother is alone because his life was cut short.  But the only thing I can do is remember…and keep moving forward. 

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