Ever since I knew what the Boston Marathon was, I’ve wanted to run it. I am proud to be running the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 20, 2015 for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s Cancer Fund.
Cancer has deeply impacted my family and me, especially over the past several years. In June 2013, we lost my Grama Dee to melanoma. It was originally discovered in her eye in December 2011 when she was going in for cataract surgery. She had a surgery to remove the cancer from her eye and at first, the doctors were quite hopeful that they had gotten everything but later scans showed that it had spread to her liver. In May 2012, she was given 5 months to live. She participated in a drug trial and received chemotherapy every few weeks. I saw her for the last time that September and she was still as cheery as ever. I talked to her on a weekly basis to see how she was feeling and to talk about movies, life and running. My Grama bought me my outfit for my first half marathon in 2010 and always asked me how my running was going. She was always supportive and encouraging. The last time I spoke with her, about a week before she passed away, we talked about the amazing running and hiking adventure in Colorado and Utah that I had just returned from. She lived a good life. She was able to see her kids grow up, her grandkids grow up and even got to meet 3 great grandchildren. But she wasn’t done and still had so much life in her. That is why I support BIDMC’s Cancer Center. Their cutting edge technology and research are bringing us steps closer to finding a cure.
In August 2006, my Aunt Kim, at age 39, was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Kim was a fighter. She was one of the most outgoing and positive people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing and this was no different. She continued living her life as she went through chemo and radiation. Her positive attitude permeated the family and gave us all so much hope. The cancer spread to her lungs and her lymph nodes as time progressed. She lost her hair and bought wigs for every occasion. She wasn’t going to let this break her spirit. She planned her funeral, right down to the “party favors” for those who attended. The last time that I saw her when she was still feeling great was January 2008. She paid for our whole family to spend a week in Florida. We went to the beach, shopping and even to Key West for a day. I have this memory that will forever live with me of Aunt Kim, my uncle and cousin all sitting in the rental car and singing “Live Like You Were Dying” along with the radio. She sure was living. She passed peacefully at home on September 13, 2008. Aunt Kim was taken too soon from this earth and I pray that someday soon, there will be a cure.
Why did I choose to run for BIDMC? Simple. They care about people. After the tragic events on April 15, 2013, BIDMC was there. Within minutes of the first bomb going off, they were admitting patients. Doctors worked around the clock providing medical care to those that were injured. The staff, who had been trained in disaster response, were able to immediately assess and coordinate the incoming patients and systematically get them to available resources depending upon specific needs. They quickly brought in a team of physical therapists, psychologists, social workers and chaplains to assist the patients and to assess and address not only their physical needs but also their psychological and emotional needs. BIDMC treats the whole person. Being a social worker, it is important to me that medical facilities are able to recognize that through any type of procedure, it can take an emotional toll on the patient, as well as families and caregivers.
On April 15, 2013, I was employed by a company in Copley Place, minutes from the finish line of the Boston Marathon, but our company had us work from home that day as so many people would be in the city and the commute would have been more difficult. We couldn’t go back for days and when we did go back, the city was cordoned off around the site of the bombing and military were patrolling with guns. It was terrifying. That same day as I was trying to process the tragedy, I started my #runforBoston running streak. My original plan was for 26 days in a row, run at least one mile per day, to honor each mile of a marathon. It was how I was coping with the awful events of that day. As I started running, something came over me and I didn’t want to stop the streak. My wife and I often travel for races because we are trying to run a half in each state so when we went to Utah, Runner’s World Chief Running Officer, Bart Yasso, who I lovingly call “BFF”, called me up to the stage during his presentation to talk about my #runforBoston streak. I was featured in the marathon booklet and the streak really took on a mind of its own.
On June 19, 2013, I got the call from my mom that my Grama had passed. I quickly left work and took the train home to Rhode Island. When I got home, I ran 1 mile around my neighborhood before jumping in my car and driving to Michigan, where my family lives. I knew that if I didn’t get my mile in that day, my Grama would be upset that the streak was over, so I kept going. I ran through the pain of losing someone so close to me that summer. On January 13, 2014, I ran my last day of the streak, stopping at 274 days because of a foot injury. The streak taught me that running is how I make sense of tragedy and loss and sometimes the days that I don’t want to run are the days I need to get out there the most. After stopping my streak, I couldn’t run for 5 months and was in a fracture shoe and then a walking boot. I started to be able to run again on National Running Day, June 4, 2014, and I haven’t looked back. Running has given so much to me and with your help, running can really give back.
You can read more about the BIDMC Cancer Center here.