Please forgive me for my blogging page. I am a blog virgin. I can see me blogging often in my near future, but now I have a very important message to blog today.
The time is coming to show our support of colon cancer awareness. The month for this awareness is in March. I am planning to run in the 1/2 marathon and encourage anybody to join. The race has walks and runs. Please go to www.mercerislandhalf.com if you want further details. Colon Cancer is 2nd most common in deaths caused by cancer, yet it can easily be prevented. I will continue to help raise awareness and hope to volunteer to the colonstars or another organization when my kids get older. I am including my essay that I wrote in my English 101 class last quarter. I am very proud of it and would love to share it with you. And just maybe it will make you want to join me in the Mercer Island colon cancer run.
Running to Survive
I never liked running. When I finished the one mile run for high school, I tasted blood, my ears hurt, and I always wanted to puke. I was the kid that always finished last. I never felt an adrenaline rush or the runner’s high. I liked being lazy and never wanted to change.
To my surprise, seven years after high school, I decided to sign up for a 10k race that raised money for colon cancer awareness. When I was twenty-three, I was diagnosed with colon cancer, and I knew that this race would be perfect. I was motivated and looked forward to supporting the cause with my money and running. I had six months to train for a six mile run.
My first practice run was on a sunny, warm day. I woke up early and drove down to Lincoln Park. The sky was blue, and the white feathery clouds circled above me. While I ran along Puget Sound, I watched the ferry boats arrive at the dock. The quiet song of the waves helped me forget the abuse I was about to endure. As I reached the swing set, my feet started to move faster and faster. They were carrying my body at a steady pace. My body tried to reject my decision to run, but my mind took control. They battled for a few minutes, and finally, my body won. I stopped in front of Colman Pool and looked at the park’s bulletin board. It told me from the swing set to Colman Pool was one-third of a mile. I shook my head and thought of all the work I had ahead of me. I was discouraged. I knew that the next day I ran, I would have to try harder.
Every day that I practiced, I ran further. By the second month, I was running from one end of the park to the other and back. I had two miles down and four more to go. The more training I did, the less pain I felt. I didn’t taste blood, nor did I have the urge to throw up the scrambled eggs and coffee I ate for breakfast. I looked forward to improving my distance and achieving my goal. I felt unstoppable as if I was able to conquer the world.
My new positive energy was contagious, and my family and friends committed to participate in the race for a cure. Some signed up to run; others were willing to walk. My husband and one year old son were excited to cheer me on. I was ecstatic that I had inspired others. I wanted them to witness for themselves the pride that one feels after completing six miles.
Time rapidly passed by. I was ready. As I drove to Mercer Island, Washington, I noticed the colorful spring flowers. The trees had started producing their vibrant green leaves. It was a typical day in the Northwest, cloudy with a definite chance of rain. I arrived early, grabbed my bib number, and received a free blue shirt. Blue represents colon cancer awareness. I giggled as I read the sponsor’s names listed on back of the shirt. Underneath a hospital’s name, it read, “Put your rear in gear.” I gave my shirt to my husband and looked around. I was amazed at the number of people there. Everyone had gigantic smiles on their faces while chatting with one another. We were about to be tortured, yet everyone was joyous. I followed the crowd to the booths by the start line and was served free coffee and a banana. As I started drinking my warm bitter coffee, I heard a sponsor talking about a contest, “Put your name in the raffle and you could win a colonoscopy.” I started to chuckle, thinking, have I died and gone to colon heaven?
A voice came over the sound system calling for all 10k runners. I knew I was slow, so I stayed towards the back of the crowd. There were hundreds of people putting their rear in gear. I wondered how many were running for a loved one, and maybe their loved ones were victims to colon cancer. Many runners did wear shirts with portraits of their grandmas, grandpas, moms, and dads who had passed away. I was sad that their family members had died from cancer. I couldn’t help but think, why was I so lucky?
The crowd began to run, and I followed. I began to smile, happy that I was even able to move one foot in front of the other. I was grateful to be alive. Up ahead, I noticed the mile was marked by a group of ladies cheering. They wore that same blue shirt that I received earlier. One lady was waving a huge number one. The first mile was easy.
Halfway through the race, my body started to give up. The course’s terrain was becoming steeper. Sweat was dripping down my face and my breath was short, yet heavy. I wanted to walk, but I reminded myself why I was doing this. I thought about my experience having colon cancer. The bad dream flashed before my eyes.
* * *
It had been three years since I had my first symptom; my stomach hurt. It was not the normal gas bubble from the fiery hot Thai food I ate the night before. This pain was different. Hunched over, I would breathe through the sharpness, hoping I would never feel it again. The pain came every day for almost a year, and each day was worse. I had many mornings filled with tears. I am a person who can tolerate pain, but I could not fight it anymore.
I finally went to the doctor. I was so scared that it would be more than just irritable bowel syndrome. I wanted to digest a magic pill that would make it disappear. I knew that would be impossible and this was much more serious, but I couldn’t help but hope. After an invasive colonoscopy, I learned the truth. I remember the words as if it were yesterday, “Whitney, you have colon cancer.”
In one short week, I was being prepared for surgery. The unknown was ahead of me. Would I be required to do chemotherapy? What stage of cancer? Would my stomach be mutated by a scar? How much pain would I feel? Could I die? I was frightened and alone. How would I ever find the strength to defeat the black evil monster that was possessing me?
I tried to approach the unknown with a positive attitude and humor. I asked the surgeon if I could keep the tumor. I would put it in a jar next to my dried rosemary and nutmeg in the spice cabinet. I became morbid and dark even in my jokes. This darkness was consuming me, but I would not be swallowed without a fight.
After surgery, I woke ready for recovery. I wanted my routine back. I wanted life to be the way it was, but life could never be the same. Later I learned that I had Lynch syndrome, an aggressive gene that not only targets my colon but other major organs. I had an increased risk of cancers of the stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder ducts, upper urinary tract, brain and skin. Also, being a woman, I could develop uterine and ovarian cancer. The doctor told me that my children have a fifty percent chance of inheriting this gene. At that moment, I didn’t have any children, but this information made my stomach feel heavy. I felt like I was a rock spiraling out of control down a deep pitch-black endless hole.
My body bounced back after chemotherapy, but my mind did not. I was furious. Most twenty-three year olds should enjoy their existence, not worry about what cancer they might die from. I started to rebel. I went to parties and bars every night. I was trying to numb my head and heart by drinking my sorrows away. My bad choices were self destructing, and I lost my job. The job that would have made me rich, successful and happy. My family and friends were worried. I became apathetic and depressed.
* * *
I started to feel rain drops on my nose as I kept powering through each step. I shook that vivid memory off and left it behind me. Then, I remembered the day I decided to take control. I thought of the day my son, Jackson was born. I thought about his little face I had to live for and thought of his future. I hoped he would never have to experience the sickness. I wasn’t running only for me, but for Jackson and other children I may have.
I looked up at the next cheering mile model. She was holding a number five. I only had one mile to go. My feet were moving to the rhythm of my breath. My mind, body and soul had united. I didn’t place in this race. I doubt that I was even close. It didn’t matter. I survived.