13 is typically an "unlucky" number, but my goal this fall is to make 13 lucky for people in the village of Pout, Senegal. Here's the short story:
-13 years ago I survived testicular cancer
-This fall I am going to attempt a half marathon (13.1 miles) for the first time
-The Hall Steps Foundation is giving me an opportunity to run that half marathon for them to raise money for a hospital they will be helping to build in Pout, Senegal
-I'd love to make a huge donation to that hospital but I'm pretty broke so I'm asking for 99 friends to join with me in donating $13 so altogether we can contribute $1300 to the hospital out of gratitude for the health care we enjoy that makes things like testicular cancer survivable.
To us, $13 is the price of a decent meal out, a couple of good beers and a tip, or a 3D movie on a weekend. $13 may not seem like much, but put together it can go a long way towards helping improve the quality of life for people who normally would have to travel hours to receive care. So, will you please join me in skipping just one luxury so someone else can have a necessity? Use the big orange "Donate" button to give now :)
And now for the long story:
On August 18, 2000, I was told by my doctor that I most likely had testicular cancer, which a biopsy and CAT scans confirmed at level 2. So instead of leaving for college that fall (as was the plan), I ended up receiving chemotherapy, learning the art of barfing, and forgetting a lot. It wasn't a lot of fun, but through the love and support of my family, my friends, my church, and some very skilled doctors and nurses, I came through it just fine (although still a bit forgetful). My experience with cancer wasn't nearly as bad as as so many others, something I never forget. But I also never forget that without the medical intervention I received, that cancer would have eventually killed me. And for both of these things, I'm very, very grateful.
So, fast forward 13 years and life is pretty normal. In fact, I'm guessing I'm probably the healthiest I've ever been, which is pretty awesome! September 2013 will mark a full year that I have been running on a weekly basis, logging over 550 miles. I ran my first 5K in March and, ever since then, have been trying to turn up the mileage to the point where a half marathon (13.1 miles) is looking not just doable, but fun.
And since I don't do anything half-heartedly, I of course have been reading about running and listening to podcasts and everything like that. I recently listened to an interview with Ryan and Sara Hall, the founders of the Hall Steps Foundation. Both of them are professional runners: Ryan is the fastest American marathoner and Sara won the 2012 Cross Country Championships. A few years ago they started the foundation to use their races as fundraisers for projects that they wanted to support: wells and hospitals in Africa. Along the way they have invited other runners to join in and use their races as opportunities as well.
Once I heard that, I knew I had to get involved as well for two reasons: I'm a huge believer in 1) the idea that we were given talents, passions, and gifts not just for ourselves, but for others and 2) when we put that to work we don't have to go very far out of our way to experience the joy and fulfillment that we're meant to be living in. Then I made the connection between 13 years and 13 miles and here we are.
The spring after my treatment I heard Bono put it all into words as he recited Psalm 116 before "Where the Streets Have No Name" as I saw U2 live: "What can I give back to God for the blessings he has poured out on me?" Despite scarred veins, debilitating fatigue, lots of vomit, hair loss, and everything else, the best parts of my life now are a direct result of taking that challenge to heart and giving back. It's a strange thing to call something that tried to kill me a blessing, but there it is.
So all of that is to simply say this: will you give back with me? At this point, all of us have either been directly or indirectly affected by cancer and modern medicine has, in most cases, saved the lives of friends and family, or at least given us more time Mother Teresa once said that not all of us can do great things, but we all can do small things with great love. $13 is a small thing that all of us can do and doing it together (with great love) could end up being a great thing :)