by Rachel Le
I've always said that I wanted to run a marathon by the time I turned 25, but truthfully, I never believed it would happen. I've always been a "jogger". I'd go out and run short distances, maybe 2-3 kilometres, but I never thought that I'd be able to run long distances. I don't have the small lean build of distance runners and I never understood putting myself through that pain. Last year, things changed; I found my motivation!
In April 2010, my 26-year-old brother, Brad, was diagnosed with Burkitt's Lymphoma, an aggressive form of blood cancer. Initially, he was in excruciating pain and lost a tremendous amount of weight. I almost didn't recognize him: my big, healthy 6’3” brother weighed less than I did, couldn't get out of bed on his own, and needed a walker to get to the bathroom. My family's life was put on hold as we rallied around him. It's hard to describe the 6 months that he went through high doses of chemotherapy. The emotions, the procedures, the setbacks, the generosity and support of others, and finally the waiting...waiting to see if "it" will come back. If you've ever been there, you understand. If you haven't, I pray that you never do, that we first find a cure for this terrible disease called cancer.
The hardest part for me was the waiting. I am used to "fixing" things, solving problems. It was torture for me not being able to fight with my brother. I was helping out at the National Capital Race Weekend last year when I my solution appeared. I saw a group of people wearing purple shirts, with big grins and cheering loudly as they crossed the finish line. Their shirts read "Team In Training" and I saw that it was a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It was like a sign. I didn't have to sit back, I could fight too!
I found out that TNT offers many race options. I decided to run the marathon because it seemed like the most outrageously extreme goal. Going from virtually nothing to running a marathon gets peoples' attention! I'm not going to pretend that TNT makes the training easy. They help you achieve your goal, but you have put in the effort and endure the pain. One long run I still had 8 km (5 miles) to go, but I felt so exhausted that I was sure I couldn't go on. Then I remembered that my brother had gone through 8 rounds of chemo. So I ran a kilometre for every terrible round that he bravely endured without complaint... I made it and so far he has too. On May 29th, 2011 I crossed the finish line of the Ottawa Marathon in 3:58:31........for my brother, Brad, and for all those who have been diagnosed with blood cancers.
After finishing chemo last fall, my brother had a slow road back to "health". It took his bone marrow a long time to recover so that affected his energy levels and made him more susceptible to infections. He will continue to get scanned about every 6 months for the next 4 years, and then he will be declared "cured". That's a long time to wait to be given back your life, but my brother is not sitting around waiting or feeling sorry for himself. He went back to school part-time last winter and full-time this fall. He was back doing all the activities he loves pretty much the instant his doctors gave him the OK.
As a further celebration of survival and hope for the future, he got married this September! His wedding day was pretty much to the day that he was getting out of the hospital last year after his last round of chemo!
(While training for her marathon, Rachel raised $4400 for cancer research through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society).
Bennett Cohen (the Savvy Runner) and Gail Gould are the Founders and Presidents of the International Association of Women Runners (IAWR). To learn more about this global community of women who share a passion for running, visit www.iawr-connect.com.