Just one day after my 2-year cancer-versary I had the extreme pleasure of participating in an uplifting, enriching event. The Tina Tramples Cancer 5K race was such a great time I’m still smiling about it. Did I take one photo? No. So please use your imagination. I had every intention of taking pics, but it was rather dark at 5 a.m. when I arrived with scores of other volunteers, and by the time dawn broke, we were too busy setting up tables, registering runners, and getting the race off the ground.
Tina is a friend who is battling pancreatic cancer with extraordinary results. Thanks to her indefatigable spirit and an amazing oncology team, she is making incredible progress against this terrible disease. Tina’s friends decided to organize a 5K to raise money and awareness for Pancreatica, the online group dedicated to furthering research for this woefully underfunded form of cancer.
Do not underestimate the power and dedication of a small group of suburban women. Some are at-home moms, some are in the work force but all were united in staging a grand event. I’ve done a few 5Ks in my day, and this one was first-rate. Organized, efficient, and well-run, this race had a great course and all the elements I love in a race: a cute t-shirt, friendly volunteers, plenty of post-race snacks, and complimentary massage.
What I really loved about this race, though, had nothing to do with shirts or snacks. It had everything to do with community. In our ever-increasingly isolated, fast-paced lives, it was nothing short of amazing to see so many people come together to help out another person. I witnessed this on a smaller scale during my own cancer “journey” and was as amazed by it then as I am now. Is it driven by the inherent goodness that resides inside people, or by the “there by grace of God” fear that cancer could just as easily have set up shop in your body? Does it matter?
I’d intended to walk the race with my favorite girl and my dad, but my girl decided to start running at about the 1/2-mile mark. She was clipping along at a good pace, and I resisted the urge to tell her to pace herself, as the race had barely begun. Instead, I savored the sound of her feet hitting the pavement in perfect stride with mine. I focused on the sun glinting off the golden highlights in her pony-tail. I relished the whoosh of our breath–hers & mine–moving in and out as we chatted our way through the course. I took in the feel of the wind on our faces and the birdsong in our ears on a near-perfect day in our little corner of the world. I smiled at her grim determination as the course grew steep with a small hill. All of these ordinary things come into much sharper focus in the midst of cancer. After days spent battling the dreaded disease and after sleepless nights wondering how this would all turn out, it was nothing but pure joy to be here, to be present, for these ordinary things.
As I ran alongside my dear friend the intrepid Amy Hoover, we chatted about these ordinary things and how spectacularly sweet it is to be here to experience them. I told her I had a very similar thought a few days ago as I slogged through a particularly challenging workout full of some of the things I despise (burpees, and pull-ups, to name a couple). While I don’t like these two exercises, I sure do like the fact that I’m able to do them. That I’m not lying in a hospital bed recovering from a rigorous surgery to rid my body of cancer or cooped up at home after the post-mastectomy infection reared its ugly head. That I’m upright and moving forward and able to push my body and challenge my brain.
My girl pooped out before the 2-mile mark, and I walked with her for a bit before feeling the urge to keep going and finish strong. Confident that she was content to walk the rest of the race with a buddy, I kept running, then doubled back to find my girl and run it out with her. My dad finished behind her, and we celebrated at the finish line.
I stuck around to clean up and close out the race (and to eat a pina colada snow cone), and my dad and Macy went on home. When I got home, I saw that my dad had trained Macy in the family tradition of recording the race details on the bib. Another ordinary thing for which I’m happy to be present.