This beautiful girl, my amazing daughter Jane, is the reason I run. Jane fought a hard 13-month battle against Leukemia when she was just eight years old. Prior to her diagnosis, I didn’t know what Leukemia was, and I surely never believed a child (let alone my child) would ever be diagnosed with cancer.
After her death, I turned to running as my way to escape the pain. I didn’t have a “runner’s body” and I may not look like your typical marathon runner; however, I found out relatively quickly that anyone can run. And, I learned it was impossible for me to run really hard and cry really hard at the same time. Running (or a combination of running/walking – or fadoodling as I like to call it) became my therapy, my refuge. While running, I could drown my thoughts with music and I could escape reality for a brief moment of time.
At the beginning of my “grief recovery”, my friend Katie Locke introduced me to TNT (Leukemia and Lymphoma’s Society’s – Team in Training). She believed in me, and with her running beside me I completed (noticed the verb chosen was completed, not ran) my first half marathon in Fargo, North Dakota. Although the 13.1 miles were brutal, Katie NEVER gave up on me and I felt a rush like no other when I entered the FargoDome and crossed the finish line to complete my first half marathon. An accomplishment that no one can ever take away!
Since then, I had been contemplating another half marathon, but nothing moved me … nothing that is until I received an e-mail alerting me about an opportunity to run Grandma’s, yep THE GRANDMA’s, as part of TNT. I was consumed with excitement.Before cancer, before motherhood, before life as I know it … a seed was planted in my head that “Someday” I wanted to run Grandma’s Half Marathon. Although, I knew I was far from in shape to run ONE mile, let alone 13.1, I know this was my opportunity to not only cross off something from my “Bucket List”, but cross it off with a bright orange marker in Jane’s honor.
After I signed up, I began to embrace the fear that was overwhelming me. How would I, a sedentary, overweight, grieving mom even begin to find the motivation to complete Grandma’s Half Marathon. Through conversations with friends and a few Facebook posts, it soon became obvious that I wouldn’t just be running this race for me – I would be completing this race in honor of nearly 50 of my heroes … individuals battling Leukemia and Lymphoma, those who have won the battle and those angels who lost their battle with the cancer bully and looking down on us from heaven.
When I first was working on identifying my heroes, I intended to find 13 individuals that I would dedicate training runs to, and run a mile in their honor in Duluth at Grandma’s Half Marathon in June. I quickly realized that my heroes exceeded a hero for every mile, and for that matter, every half mile. As I gathered the names of individuals, my Warrior Heroes, I realized that I would have the privilege of running each quarter mile of the race in honor of a unique person. And, while this sounds exciting, it is bittersweet and makes me sad that, generally speaking, within just two degrees of separation (from me and the person with cancer) I knew enough people fighting this horrific battle against Leukemia or Lymphoma to fill 44 slots. The first mile, and the last 1.1 mile will be dedicated to my beautiful Jane and each quarter mile between miles two and 12 will be dedicated to 44 of my heroes.
I have started running again and will “officially” begin my marathon training program on March 27. Between now and the race, I will be sharing my journey on this blog site. I am currently reaching out to my heroes and their families for permission to publicly share their story. I am looking forward to introducing my heroes and their families on this site – hopefully beginning in mid February. It is my hope that their stories will inspire each of us to live a Great Big Life (thank you Pamela for showing me what this means) and encourage you to consider donating to my half marathon Leukemia and Lymphoma Society campaign.
In upcoming posts, I will be sharing information about The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) and the good they are doing to find a cure so no other mom’s and dad’s need to hear the words “I’m sorry, your child has cancer”. And whether your child is 7 or 77, learning a loved one has cancer is heart-breaking to say the least.
I look forward to sharing my journey with you and I would appreciate any prayers you can spare. Please pray that I may reach my goals of finishing the race with grace and dignity, that I may recognize my heroes in a way that honors them, that I am able to raise awareness and personify the Leukemia and Lymphoma disease and that I can reach my fundraising goal for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Thank you for believing in me! And, if you see me running – please join me … on the pavement, the treadmill or in spirit!
Jil, always and forever Jane’s mom
If you wish to give a financial gift, please click here to securely donate to my campaign online.