The leaves are almost off of the trees at our house, and the holidays are creeping up on us. The days feel short as the sun sinks long before we are used to watching it disappear. Prior to six years ago, it would be the time of year that I settle in for my winter hibernation but instead, I begin mapping out my training plan for the Boston Marathon in 5 months and start thinking about the upcoming Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge season. After the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon and the tragedy that played out on Boylston near the finish line, this has been an “off-season” unlike other years. We’ve been witness to many selfless acts and stories of inspiration, and seen communities join together in support and fellowship for those forever affected by the marathon bombings in April. The coming training season and the marathon that will be held on April 21, 2014 will also be unlike other years. It will be a time of unity and solidarity among the running community, and within that, it will also be a celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC). The kind of solidarity we have seen since April is what has driven the DFMC team since its inception 25 years ago. Each in our own way, all of the team members have been inspired by a terrible disease, and by the people that we love and care for that have fought with perseverance, immense strength, humor, and grace.
Each of the past five years, the support that has been shown to my participation on the DFMC team has been incredibly generous and frankly, quite remarkable. I began running in 2009 after my sister, Molly, died as a result of brain cancer. And then, in less than three years’ time (which felt like both an eternity and a flash), my brother, John, and my sister, Mary, also passed away from cancer. They were all in the 30s, all with so much living left to do. Our family and their friends had plans and hopes that included them and all of our lives were irrevocably changed by their diagnosis and subsequent deaths. The reality is too many people are getting diagnosed every day: one of my first friends in Massachusetts; our friend, Danny; my friend’s dad; another friend’s mom. It is just too many people. There is still much work to be done and that is why I became a member of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team and haven’t looked back. After John was first diagnosed, I began looking for a way to give back, a platform for change. I needed something to believe in, a cause that was making a difference, that I could see and understand. And I found that with DFMC. The DFMC team is composed not just of the runners, but their families and friends who support them, researchers, volunteers, the survivors, and all those in whose memory we run. I certainly can’t find a cure on my own, and that is why I come back to this team, and why I write to you this year.
The DFMC team raises funds for the Barr Program in Innovative Cancer Research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Dana-Farber is one of the top 5 cancer institutes in the country, and the Barr Program is a leading research program that funds the brightest scientists making basic research discoveries that are transforming cancer treatment. These breakthroughs are resulting in improved survival rates and quality of life for thousands of patients everywhere. 100%...every single little penny…of your gift will go directly to the researchers. To fund cutting edge studies. To find new and effective treatments. To search for a cure. This year, our team goal is $5.3 million dollars, and my personal goal is $26,200, which is $1000 per mile of a marathon. I would be so grateful for your generosity and support to help me reach my goal this year.
Making an online gift is easy. You can visit my webpage at http://www.runDFMC.org/2014/jennie to make a contribution. If you would prefer, you can also send a check payable to the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge to me at: Jennie Sheridan, 23 Glendale Rd., Marblehead, MA 01945. It is because of the unfailing generosity of so many of you over the past years that I am able to once again lace up my shoes and run in honor of all of our family and friends who have been diagnosed with cancer. Please let me know if there is someone for whom you would like me to run. I wear the names of our family and friends on my shirt on the road from Hopkinton to Boston each year, and while sadly the list continues to grow, it is for all them that I run.
As I close this out, I wanted to share something I wrote this summer that rings true for not just this marathon but for almost every day I step into my running shoes. The question, “Why do you run?” was posed by the organizers of the NYC Marathon (a race I was supposed to run but couldn’t due to injury. With Thanksgiving upon us, I find myself incredibly grateful to be able to run and the platform for which it has allowed me to give back:
“I am inspired to run by many things. I started running marathons five years ago in support of my three siblings who had been diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, I now run in their memories as within three years, all of them lost their lives to cancer. I think that throughout the 11 years, from my brother's first diagnosis of a brain tumor in 2000 to the day of my second sister's funeral in 2011, running has saved me. In the many years of illness, treatment, and occasional remissions; and those that have followed their deaths, running has provided me an outlet to process pain and sadness, to clear my head and think through decisions, to cry, to remember, to laugh. Running keeps me healthy in mind and in body. Through running, I have realized how important exercise is to overall well being, and I know that enduring what our family has been through would have been significantly more difficult for me without being able to throw on my shoes and head out the door. Cancer doesn't just affect those who are diagnosed: It changes the world for anyone that is part of that life. So, I run for my parents, who endured and survived much more than a thousand marathons as they supported and cared for my siblings throughout their illnesses. I run for my one living sister, who is my best friend, and I am so thankful that over the past couple of years we've had the opportunity to log a few running miles together. I run for my husband, who provides unending support and understanding. I run for my three kids to show them to set goals, and follow through on the work and commitment to achieve them. And to not give up, even when life takes some really unexpected turns. I run for so many family members and friends that continue to provide our family with laughter, love, meals, rides, overnight stays, emails and letters, prayers, and care without conditions. And I run for me. Because being able to run, and the peace and wellness that I feel when I am on the road, it has saved me."
I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this team, to help lead us to a world without cancer. My sincerest thanks for your kindness and generosity. It means a great deal to my family, and we are all so grateful for your support over the years. Please feel free to share our mission with anyone you feel might be interested, and don't forget to follow along on this blog. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
Be good. Be strong.