My dear friend and fellow cancer crony Rachel Lozano – who suffered from childhood cancer and still battles side effects to this day – coined the phrase “I play a healthy person really well.” And the fact of the matter is, she does. I do as well. I play a healthy person really well every day. For many, who are close family and friends – they often forget that I have cancer; that I fight for every day, that cancer is part of my life – I tend to make it look easy. Even complete strangers would have no idea I have cancer; I am a great at covering this up. However I also don’t tout this, I don’t focus on that. I focus on being healthy, happy and having a positive attitude – I look the part on the outside so it suits me well.
Many of you may or may not know that since I don’t announce all of my health issues, that I have been undergoing maintenance chemotherapy treatment every 2 weeks for the last 6 years. If you do the rough math, I have sat in a chemotherapy chair at Siteman Cancer Center over 120 times since October 2009. It is quite astounding what my schedule looks like living with cancer, again, you’d have no idea unless I reminded you. This is where I visit – every 2 weeks – this supports my hope.
As you may recall, at the age of 48, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer. After radiation, chemotherapy and multiple surgeries, today I am 54 and this is my way of life. Treatment may never have an end date. Fortunately, the doctors I have are amazing; they literally keep me going with medicine that is giving me hope and life. That is why research is my lifeline. It is the hope that someday they will find a cure and there will be a treatment plan where I will be able to complete the medicine and ring the bell.
I know that this journey for me is not a sprint; it is a marathon and a journey I have been on for 6 years. I train for marathons and I know that going the distance is what counts, to never give up, to persevere. I liken my chemotherapy to training for a marathon. I prepare to run – running shorts, t-shirt, shoes, glasses, a heart monitor, nutrition, water – you know the essentials for running. I hit a local high school track early on a Saturday morning. I start slow, build, and go steady. I often refer to this as slogging, as jogging seems like too fast of a term for what I do. Slow and steady, I will win this race, but for me the finish line is a moving target that I will continue to move (run) towards.
I go out every two weeks to run the track of chemotherapy. I prepare my essentials for what I need to get through the chemotherapy – prepared for and enduring the race of getting IV treatments and medications in my body that act as runners to chase down and beat the cancer.
I know that the last 6 years of training every 2 weeks has not been easy; there have been lane changes and hurdles in my way that I have had to jump over. Some hurdles I have tripped over. I have had set backs, but I got back up – dusted myself off and kept going. There is no doubt that what I have put into training for real marathons is the same that I have put into running the biggest race of my life – with all of the blood, sweat, tears and determination I have in me.
Above all though, I have had hope; hope that I will get around each curve on the track, to make lane changes with grace and ease, and that I will make it down long stretches before something in my journey changes again. I know there will be the time of going the distance and making great strides in between – feeling free from heavy burdens – helping me to endure those abrupt and brief challenges –I have hope in knowing that I will persevere.
I have faith that the doctors are preparing me for these marathons, that they are the ones creating marathon miracles through innovative research and development. They are helping provide great strides towards living a longer, healthier and sustainable life. It is all because of them that I am able to run.
I have confidence that at any time when I start to slow down and don’t feel I can run anymore – I can visualize the stands surrounding the running track are filled with family, friends, loved ones – the Army – cheering and rooting me on to go the distance. It is all because of them – this is why I run.
I am powered by research. I am powered by amazing doctors and nurses. I am powered by treatment. I am powered by running. I am… Powered by Hope.