Feeling ?@($^&^@ Friday!

I’m breaking my pattern this Friday afternoon because it isn’t just any Friday afternoon (had you not gathered that yet, this week?!), it’s the night before we hit the road for Burlington!

This afternoon I sent a letter to my family and friends who have contributed to my Team In Training campaign for the Vermont City Marathon. I’ve been so blown away by all of the meaning and perspective I’ve come across and dug up since February, and I wanted to let everyone know how much their support means to me.

Then I realized some of my readers might not be donors and, all the same, your messages, comments, and commentary have buoyed me on good and bad days and encouraged me throughout, so I will share the bulk of the letter with you, as well:

This season started with my wanting to jump back into marathoning with both feet. I wanted to pay tribute to my friend and TNT’er, Fulvio Abela, who passed away unexpectedly in the fall. Throughout the season, training on the Boston Marathon course, I continued to turn corners and climb hills expecting to see his smiling face, out training with the team, surrounded by his troupe of speedy running buddies. I’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of miles thinking about what it means to be a strong and joyful runner, and to be a happier, friendlier person because of Fulvio over the past several months.

A few weeks into training, I decided to run in honor of Bill Thompson, too. I’ve never met Bill, but his wife, Anna, has shown me what it means to be hard working, compassionate, sassy, and resilient. The Thompson family has traveled some real ups and downs over the course of the winter and spring, and I hope to run the hills of Burlington on Sunday much like they have covered their course: with perspective, faith, and determination.

This training season has dealt perspective at every turn, adding to the list of people I run to honor and who will serve as my inspiration and motivation on Sunday. A neighbor was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The marathon bombings hit close to home in every sense. I read an article in Runner’s World about a man who was in a terrible accident during childhood and spent most of his life feeling like an outcast until he took up running. It doesn’t come easy or naturally, but it has helped him find his place in the world. Last week, like many of you, I watched the short documentary about Zach Sobiech, the 18-year old aspiring musician who passed away from osteosarcoma. In the closing moments he said, “I want to be remembered as the kid who went down fighting, and didn’t really lose.” Interestingly, and perhaps bringing this email full circle, his attitude reminds me a bit of what I learned from Fulvio. Live joyfully. 

Last weekend I volunteered at the Reach The Beach relay, where one of the runners asked who I was volunteering on behalf of. I told him LLS and he thanked me, noting that his lab at Dana-Farber is funded by LLS grants. The money that you have pledged is funding the most cutting-edge and innovate cancer research right now. And that translates to treatments, drugs, and cures for patients.

Tuesday, I had the spectacular opportunity to spend the day with Dr. Paul Richardson, the clinical director of Dana-Farber’s multiple myeloma clinic. While shadowing Paul, I visited several of his patients — one who is in complete remission following a recent stem cell transplant, another in partial remission who is still in treatment, and a third with an extremely rare disorder that, to be honest, I did not understand even a little bit. Still, he is in fair health, travels with his wife, and has several viable treatment options and an incredibly positive attitude. A multiple myeloma diagnosis is harrowing, but thanks to your support of LLS, great strides are being made.

As I head off to the start line, and eventually (eventually) the finish, I thank you so much. I am so grateful.