It's that time of year again...

Chemo, I can handle. No problem, as long as my sometimes-temperamental veins hold up, right? My latest quest to either float myself or become a human camel has been working beautifully at keeping the Tuesday blood draw and the Wednesday chemo down to one stick apiece. This is quite the accomplishment for one with rolling, tiny veins. Six rounds behind me means I'm a quarter of the way to the finish line. I can do this. Even though there may be some Wednesday in the future that all I want to do is superglue myself to the I-beam in the garage at 1432 Dobson Road and stage a protest because the thought of walking in to Desert Oncology and facing yet ANOTHER treatment is enough to make me want to implode, I know can handle it, even then. Fearlessly, I'll continue to show chemo and cancer that have no idea who they decided to pick a battle with. The Race for the Cure? Year after year it puts the fear of God in me.

I walked my first Race for the Cure in October of 2000. It was 2 months after my first course of chemo treatments had ended, and the first time I went out in public without the security of my bandana on. I remember feeling overwhelmed as I struggled with the concept of who I was, and how I fit in the world of pink around me. I was supposed to embrace this, but in reality, I felt lost. In time, my hair grew back, my strength returned, and by 2004 I had become some semblance of a runner. Still, every year around this time, I start to hear advertisements for the Race, I receive my registration in the mail, and those Race for the Cure jitters begin to kick in. I can handle that too, right? Riiiiiiight.

These aren’t your usual pre-race jitters I’m talking about, these are ridiculous. And I mean absolutely ludicrous and irrational. Let’s face it, even though I’m not setting any records or breaking any tapes, I’ve become an OK runner that usually places somewhat respectably in my age group. My typical morning run is around 6 miles when I’m not training, and I’ve completed six half-marathons in three states since January 2006. And then, there’s the 3.1 mile Race for the Cure.

About a month pre-race, I start to have the dreams. Not your typical dreams, mind you, but dreams that more often than not fall into that category of preposterous. The other night I saw myself walking toward the staging area, late of course, wearing jeans and dress shoes. Men’s leisure suit white patent leather dress shoes that one might see in an ad for sans-a-belt pants. Yes, this is this what was on my feet and by the time I realized what I was wearing, and that I’d have to run in socks, despite that fact that my MP3 player was on my arm, but my earbuds were not attached AND that I had now missed the start of the race... doomed. Last year I think I had followed the signs incorrectly since they had re-routed the race, and it ended up taking me through a hotel corridor, up escalators, and through various ballrooms following signs with pink arrows to point me in the right direction. If any one ever knew about this, they’d revoke my right to purchase Asics, let alone enter an expo and pick up a race packet…

I’m not certain what it is about this particular event that tends to trigger this response within me. I’ve put some thought into it though, particularly over the past couple of years. It may be the fact that it’s one of the days during the year that I need to show my stripes, or wear my pink, as the case may be. It could be that for this day, I’m not just a runner that can blend into the crowd and go unnoticed. Perhaps it’s the fact that even though there are thousands and thousands of people out there, I am one of a select group within the masses. Perhaps I know in my heart that as a runner, I’m not sure I’ve ever finished this race knowing that I put it all out there, and in the process, haven’t managed to break my personal elusive time goal of xx minutes. No, I’m not telling. Runners World recommends that you keep your pie-in-the-sky goal to yourself. The thing is, it’s not unattainable by any stretch of the imagination, and I just haven’t gotten there yet. I also know that the Race for the Cure is a non-competitive event. That time? That’s for me.

Thankfully, over the past couple of years I’ve had Greg to remind me that this event is bigger than me running a race. Me, and the people like me, that’s the reason this event is held to begin with, and just to get out there and run, that’s what it’s really about. So, it’s that time of year again, and at the same time as my half-marathon training starts for January, I prepare myself mentally for another Race for the Cure. This year, I realize it’s even more important than ever, and that the awareness and funds and research that events like this generate are a huge part of the reason I’m able to receive treatments today that weren’t even available when I was first diagnosed seven years ago.

On October 14, I’ll have 11 rounds of chemo behind me. Maybe I’ll still have hair, maybe I won’t (although I’m hoping for the former…). I’ll be able to put another season of irrational dreams behind me and focus my energies on why I run. Maybe, just maybe, someone out there that is going through the same thing that I am will look at me and think, “I can do this, too.” For everyone who is out there and has either faced with breast cancer, will face breast cancer, or loves someone who has had breast cancer. For the people near and far who have reached out and wrapped their arms around me from all corners of the world, some of whom have never met me, and have lifted me up in strength, in prayer, in hope, and in faith. For my friends and family who unwaveringly and wholeheartedly believe in me and told me without hesitating “time to lace up your gloves” because they know I can beat this. My mom participated in her first Race for the Cure in Central Park this past weekend. She sent us an e-mail afterwards that read, “Today I learned the difference between a ‘Thriver’ and a ‘Survivor’.” Thank you for realizing what I’m about…

October 14, I’ll lace up my shoes and participate in another Race for the Cure 5k with Greg, once again, reminding me why I’m there. Somewhere around mile 2.6, the realization kicks in. I’ll look to my right and see the greatest friend, companion, love, running partner and co-survivor I’ve ever met, running alongside me. This year when I cross the finish line, whatever the time says on my stopwatch is what it is. Does the runner in me still want the PR? Well of COURSE. I suppose the difference in this event is that each PR or each step taken is still one step closer to a cure…

2 comments:

    I love someone with breast cancer...... and this year, just like last year, if you'll have me, I will be waiting at the finish line for my 2 favorite Hoffmanns, screaming the support that ALL OF US that love you both feel in our hearts. You amaze me, my friend... even if your "dream taste" in shoes sucks (have I taught you NOTHING????!!??? White men's dress shoes- YUCK :))

    On September 10, 2007 at 1:39 PM Anonymous said...

    so, i may not be at the finish line waiting for you two unlike a certain someone i know who has the convenience of being in the same state, ahem, i will be there in spirit.

    also, I'm wearing my believe necklace today...