A Marathon That Is Not A Race
I’ve always found it peculiar that peopleeffected by cancer do something completely unrelated to cancer to raise moneyor awareness. Regardless, it is something I can identify with. Just last week, my Team UA (comprised of twofriends and I) ended our fundraising season with the Chicago marathon.
Sense of Community
During the race it felt like all 1.7million spectators were cheering for me. Among many signs I saw, one that I’llnever forget said “I’m cheering for you complete stranger!” Idon’t know who this person was holding it, but it meant a lot to see it. Ithelped me feel connected to the city and the other 50,000 runners. Looking atthat mob of people in that moment made me think about the thousands ofcaretakers, like my own family, that have had to care for someone who isterminally ill due to a rare disease.
The pain of the race connected me to mydeceased father. I infrequently think about the final days of his life when hisbody was falling apart but the stress of the race brought up some fleetingmemories. The struggle to train, compete, and travel for a marathon helps meemotionally because it assigns meaning to that pain I still carry. All of that, in the context of a rare diseasecommunity, is very healing and encouraging.
Enjoy The Process
During the race my knees hurt, my asthmaacted up, and I had serious dehydration and cramps. In fact, as I write thisseven days after the event, my body still hurts. The kicker to all of thisphysical pain is that I didn’t come close to my goal time. I wanted to breakfour hours and I just skirted under five.
On the other hand, to train for thisevent I had my family bike beside me while I did my long runs in the woods onSunday mornings. I got in great shape. I got to eat what I wanted for monthsand I raised money for an important and significant charity. Plus, I had mypicture taken lots of times while wearing Uplifting Athletes merchandise. Ilove getting my picture taken!
Although cancer has no finish line itcertainly is a marathon for everyone effected. There is no way one can enjoyany aspect of cancer. It is terrible. It sucks. It is hard to see it as aprocess at all.Yet, in the 5 years since my dad passed away (actually, it was 6 years ago today), I have had theprivilege of hearing other families share their struggles. Constantly, I hearstories about how a horrendous disease can bring families together or helpindividuals pursue important goals as they come face to face with mortality. To anyone out there going through this now, Iwould say hang on. The work you are doing now has unforeseen benefits. I feelhelped because of total strangers who have volunteered for clinical trials orwho helped the cause of Uplifting Athletes. When I hear about the progress — six new treatments since my father passed away — it makes me want to sign up and do it all over again.
One Last Thing
Fundraising does not need to involvephysical pain. This might sound random, but I decorated easter eggs (calledPsyanky Eggs) and sold them. I loved doing them. It is meditativebecause it takes so much concentration. I am curious to hear what creativeideas or special talents others have that they are channeling towards the raredisease cause.
Todd Shirley is a contributing author to the Uplifting Athletes Blog. He is also a middle school guidance and works in the public sector. Todd was a member of the swim team at Shippensburg University and a three sport letterman in high school.