Next weekend on March 17th I'm planning on running the LA Marathon. This marathon means more to me than any other marathon I have ever run. (Well except possibly my first one.)
I was on the LA Marathon website recently and saw that you could submit your story. I immediately wanted to share my story in case it helps others going through something similar. When diagnosed with cancer it is easy to give up on life and stop living. I refuse to do that though and have kept on living my life - with a huge part of my life being running. I may be slow now, but I'm still out there.
My Marathon Story:
Last fall I was training for my 3rd marathon in 2012 and my 19th marathon ever when I received terrible news. The headaches I had been experiencing for the past six months weren’t from a neck sprain, stress, or some other “normal” condition. They were being caused by a brain tumor. Just a few days after completing a 16-mile long run, I was in the hospital discussing a treatment plan for the next few months. As the neurologist talked to me about surgery, radiation, and chemo, one of the first things I asked him was if he thought I could still run the Marine Corps Marathon the following month. He looked at me dumbstruck for a minute before telling me “No, don’t plan on it. You’re going to be very busy.”
Busy meant a number of things. I was in the hospital two weeks later for brain surgery. Due to the location of the tumor it could not be removed surgically, so the course of treatment for me would be radiation and chemo. The purpose of my surgery was to biopsy the tissue and to install a shunt to drain the fluid that was building up in my brain and causing my headaches. Following the surgery I wasn’t allowed to be physically active for a month. A whole month! The month was difficult to wait out but I made it through the month …. Only to be confronted with radiation and chemo as soon as I was “recovered”.
When I first consulted with the radiation oncologist and we discussed the course of treatment, he warned me that most people ended up on disability by the end of the six weeks and weren’t able to work. I was scared by this possibility but I was still hopeful. I had made it through my surgery with flying colors and recovered faster than expected, so maybe this would be the same. Fortunately I was right! I was able to work throughout the six-week period AND I was able to continue running 4-5 times a week. As I continued to run throughout my treatment I started to think about running marathon #19 – the marathon that had been taken away from me. After looking at a few races in the area I set my eyes on the LA marathon. I ran LA once before in 2006 and loved it. I had also run the San Francisco Marathon in 2012 so running LA in 2013 would qualify me for the LA/SF Marathon Challenge medal. I talked to one of my favorite crazy marathon friends who is always down to race with me to see if she’d run LA with me, by my side. She was in!
Although I left radiation treatment behind me in 2012, chemo is still a part of my life. I’m currently on a 5 days on / 23 days off regimen for 2013 and possibly 2014. During the chemo week and part of the week following, I’m pretty tired. At times I’m not just tired, I’m exhausted. If I’m able to run, I’m running pretty slowly. I get winded really easily now and need to take frequent walk breaks, but I’m happy to just be able to get out there. I PR’d in the marathon in December 2011 with a 3:57. After years and years of trying, I was finally able to break 4 hours! In my current state I’ll be happy to finish the LA Marathon in under 6 hours. Training has been difficult and my long runs have been incredibly slow, but getting myself out there helps me prove to myself that I can still do things in life that I could do before my diagnosis. Running is a huge part of my life that I don’t want to give up. Running marathons is a part of who I am.
Throughout my treatment and training this year I wasn’t even sure I’d make it to the start line of the LA Marathon. If I do, I’m not sure I will make it to the finish. I will have one of my closest friends running and walking by my side the whole way, and I can’t wait for us to get to the finish next Sunday, regardless of the time on the finish clock. LA Marathon – my brain tumor and I are coming for you!