Christina Del Casale
I am so honored and excited to represent the Ulman Cancer Fund for the 2018 New York City Marathon!
Thanks, in advance, for your support and donation! Keep an eye out for fundraising events!
I want a world where every holiday can be celebrated happily, without having to be saddened by the void of a lost relative. I want a world where there are no more hospital rooms filled with heartbroken friends. I want a world where no lives are cut short and no dreams are left unachieved because cancer took that person's life.
I am running because each step and each breath I take is a victory. I am thankful for the days I have and I run in memory of those who are currently living with cancer, and for those who are no longer with us.
It was a rainy day on April 21, 2011, in Blacksburg, Virginia. I visited my last school on my tour de colleges, Virginia Tech. I usually hated the rain, but despite the dreary weather, I was in love with VT's campus and energy. As we gazed out over the Drillfield, I saw a purple and white balloon arch being staked into the ground. I asked my tour guide, "what's that for?" to which she replied, "our Relay For Life event, the largest collegiate Relay in the world!" I'm smiling as I type this now, staring at my empty R4L coffee mug that I use regularly.
My freshman year, I did chores for people in the dorms to raise money for Relay. Didn't want to take out your trash or do your own laundry? I was your gal! At this point in my life, I had never directly been affected by cancer, but I sympathized with those who did, and knew that you don't have to be directly affected by something in order to give back. I went to Relay, stayed up all 12 hours with my freshman buds, and couldn't wait to do it again next year!
In April 2012, I learned my friend Rebecca, some of whom's best friends were my best friends, had been diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. I anxiously awaited Facebook posts and notes from her, as she updated friends on her treatment regimen. Among those notes were also Facebook statuses about running races, being thankful JHU let her take online classes, and oh, just winning some races while undergoing chemotherapy. Rebecca was a talented athlete, scholar, and mucisian, a young woman with a unique laugh, a best friend to many, and an incredibly resilient individual. On September 30, 2012, Rebecca passed away from her cancer, surrounded by family and visited by many friends. Sitting with friends and relatives in her hospital room and in the waiting room, there was a painful sadness worn on so many faces that I knew I never wanted to see again.
One month later, I signed up for my first half marathon, raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I had never run that far before, or raised that much money, which looking back, didn't really phase me. I knew this was what I had to do to honor my friend. In high school, I had a short stint with XC, and at a big meet in Rose Tree Park, I saw Rebecca and the UDHS team there. Their presence immediately made me feel relieved. I'm pretty sure she performed phenomenally that day, serving as a personal running inspiration for me. Fast forward to April, I'm honored to speak at VT Relay's 'canning night' (the last night for collecting raised money before the event) and speaking about Rebecca in front of about 100 people.
That is the first year I see her picture in the "in memory of" section at VT Relay's event.... the next year I joined a committee, and my senior year I was on the executiive committee running our social media accounts (#cantstopwontstop), and surrounded by my inspiring co-execs. We may have never have crossed paths if it weren't for our connection to cancer and our drive to make a difference, a silver lining in the thick of it all. The stories I heard through them and people in the Blacksburg community inspired me to sign up for the 4K For Cancer, a cross-country trek from San Francisco to Baltimore, in the summer of 2016.
Myself and 26 teammates woke up each day, held a dedication circle where we went around and said who we were running for that day, and had their names written on our legs as a symbol of us carrying them with us. It was honestly a one-of-a-kind eye-opening experience - EVERYWHERE we went, we met someone who had been affected by cancer. One of our first days in Nevada, we stopped at a store to use a restroom and get coffee, and the woman who owned the store shared her story with us.
Note: what prompted so many people to share their story with us begins with them asking "what are you doing" because they saw us running for miles, or that we all looked like we were on a soccer/softball/volleyball team (just a few of the sports we got). A few days into the trip and we were all masters of the spiel.
A few more instances that stuck out to me were:
-we stopped at the Wyoming state sign to take our usual "new state, new pic" picture, and the man taking our picture said his nephew had just passed away from cancer a few days prior.
-Liz came with me to urgent care to tend to my swelling foot, and the NP who saw me wore an orange pin and 2 orange wristbands for her husband who passed away from complications from a stem cell transplant for his leukemia
-Meeting TJ, who was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma and on his fourth round of treatment. His dad told me "we thought it would be like the movies and that we'd come in, get chemo, and everything would be good." I found his family on Facebook after our arrival in August, and found that he had been moved home for hospice care, where he ultimately passed away from his cancer
Each of my teammates-turned-family inspired me every day with their reasons to run and with their encounters with cancer. This compassionate bunch, they're something else. :') We still inspire each other and seek each other's comfort in times of need, and importantly, stay involved in the cancer-affected community. I've volunteered with UCF and also joined the Cancer to 5K team (Hi, Coach Lynn!) in Philly, where I continue to meet amazing individuals who are thriving in their own unique ways.
I want to continue to give back, and dream big, so I joined UCF for the NYC Marathon!
The funds raised provide services to young adults cancer patients (ages 15-39 is considered "young adult"), including
- patient navigation services
- scholarships to those affected by cancer
- the Cancer to 5K training program
- young adult specific support groups & events
- chemo care bags, and
- currently, UCF is building The UCF House where patients and family members who are coming to Johns Hopkins for treatment can stay at no charge.
See more here: http://ulmanfund.org/yoursupport/
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