My Wife, Fighting Cancer and Middle Earth
What do these have to do with each other? I know it’s a reach but they did link together for me this weekend.
It all started a few weeks ago with my wife saying, “I’m going to do it!”
Knowing this could mean anything from baking a new exotic vegetarian dish, building a cob house or planning to run for Congress, I asked for clarification. Brandie pointed me to the Hoosiers Outrun Cancer site. She was claiming she was going to enter and run the 5K event and raise money for the charity.
This concerned me just a bit. No, not the charity part. I’m all for it. What concerned me was the “5K” part. Though being incredibly active and enjoying a walk or a small jog, my wife’s foot had been shattered in a car wreck many years ago. It was never properly fixed by the foot doctor and she deals with chronic pain from the trauma. She had not had any training in the past several weeks and like me with my own foot and knee issues extended running in the past had usually left us in discomfort far above the norm. She also had never distanced more than a little over a mile.
I asked again just to be sure I heard her right.
She politely repeated herself. With the simple fact the race was in two weeks and would allow no real training time, I replied, “5K? I don’t want to be negative but realistically you understand how long that is, right?”
She told me not to look at her like that and I could tell by the glint in her eyes she was going to run the race, and finish, even if it meant crawling across the finish line on bloody hands and knees. My wife’s not a fighter. She’s a scrapper and I pity the poor SOB who ever forgets it. As the great Taoist writings recommend, the tree that bows in the wind survives far longer than the one who resists it. Besides, how could I say anything since just a month or so ago I had come to her with this incredibly silly idea to walk across Middle Earth?
I wisely changed my tact and asked, “So, when is it?”
My wife’s history with cancer extends through her family, her friends and the majority of her life. She is very passionate about it as well as the care to those undergoing it’s effects. Within the hour of making the proclamation, she was signed up on the charity page and posting what she was doing on Facebook. At the time of the race, she was the number one top single fundraiser for the event.
She asked for family and friends to give her names of people in their lives who had been diagnosed with cancer. It didn’t matter whether they had donated or not. She would write each name on a ribbon and pin them to her shirt, running with them the whole way. We made one for my aunt and I asked if she would mind making one for Pooka, our dog who passed away because of a burst melanoma in the late summer of 2010. It hung proudly next to other family members at the time of the race.
I am immensely proud of her. Being a mom with three kids who fought her way to a college degree, held down a job, and continues to raise her children with a firm, unwavering resolve no matter what they throw at her, I’ve always been proud of her. However, I won’t lie. I was also concerned. Her plan was to walk/run the course and not push herself which sounded good in my book but she had never ran this far before.
My course before me was plain and simple. We couldn’t really afford another registration but I would go with her. If they wouldn’t let me run in the race itself, I’d jog along the sidewalk or something.
I was also going to take my camera because, frankly, this insanity needed documenting.
There was also another small issue. I had never cleared a mile and a half in any of my running outings either.
It was going to be an adventure.
Speaking of adventure, here’s the Middle Earth angle. If you remember my last post, I talked about the Middle Earth Challenge I would be doing with the family. The goal would be to see how quickly we could walk the course between The Shire and Rivendell. If nothing else, it would be a great excuse to get out and get some exercise. We had decided to start on Bilbo Baggins’ birthday, September 22nd.
What we were not ready for was the fact the 22nd fell on what happened to be a train-wreck of a Thursday. I’m not sure we could have started our walk even if we wanted to! So, instead, we opted to kick the Middle Earth walk off with the 5k event. There’s another post coming that will focus on that and where we are currently in the quest. I think it’s safe to say we jogged to the edge of Hobbiton but have a bit of a way to get out of the Shire.
In the chilly Saturday morning, we drove over to Memorial Stadium. We walked under drifting gray clouds and she pinned the ribbons, one by one, onto her race shirt. An IU band warmed up the crowd. The announcer got us going. Teams were introduced and cancer survivors were honored including the incredibly large running team of survivors called, aptly, Hakuna Matatas. Bloomington North High School students, one of the largest teams in the race, performed a fun dance number. This being our first big 5K we just watched and took it all in. When the cancer survivor teams were announced, Brandie cheered fiercely.
Soon enough, we were gathering at the finish line amongst 5,000 other people. I’d never run in such a massive crowd before. The end result from the race? We were elated. To see a veritable river of people, all of them a part of this event and knowing nearly all of them were doing it because someone in their life had been effected by cancer was sobering. My wife alone carried 36 ribbons on her shirt.
At the one mile marker we were cheered by volunteers playing the Rocky theme. At the second mile marker, we’d been lifted by spectators and cheerleaders and handed water and orange slices. We were amazed at how two thirds of the course seemed to just float past.
To be clear, we didn’t run the whole thing. We took breaks and walked at a brisk pace. By the first mile and a half, the pack had stretched itself out and there was plenty of room around us. When we got tired we slowed and, overall, were very cautious. We made small goals like, “I’m going to run to that next driveway, you with me?” To get herself going up a hill she started chanting to herself, “Better than chemo. Better than chemo.” Near the end my bad knee started catching up to me and her foot started to hamper her. By then, though, we had the finish line in sight and we had made it. She finished low in her age class but as she reminded me, “It’s not about that anyway. Who cares? Screw it. Now I have room for improvement!”
The bottom line for her? “As long as it gets the word out and someone, somewhere gets their awareness raised a little bit then I’m good.”
I’ve posted a gallery over on Flikr with a few more images of the race if you care to give them a look.