To Make a Donation to the 2016 team

Please visit my fundraising page to make a donation to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.runDFMC.org/2017/jennies). Please help me reach my goal of $50,000 to fund important basic cancer research! With your support, we have already provided over $312,000 to Dana-Farber researchers over the past 8 years. Please give as generously as your means allow!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cancer Research Saves Lives

This video was shared today on Facebook by the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, which is not only affiliated with my alma mater, but more importantly is where Mary will be going for participation in a clinical trial for the second time. I think it helps to see how important research is, and just how immense the need is for funding. Cancer research saves lives. Please, donate if you can to the DFMC challenge team.



Be good. Be strong.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tick-tock

The holiday season seems to be a time of ramped up anxiety, stress and always rushing around. We always seem to have someplace to be, something to pick up, someone to visit, wrapping, shopping, driving, mailing, decorating, hiding, baking, and fitting in some sleep. We often hear "If only I had an extra day this week, a little more time to get it all done" but much less often do we hear "thank you for this day."

Last week, I received an email from someone who I don't know very well who had heard about the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge. She shared with me that her sister was very ill as a result of a glioblastoma, the type of brain tumor that Molly and John both had. She had gone through some experimental treatment that the doctors thought might work for a couple of weeks, maybe months. Surprisingly, it worked for almost exactly a year, although the benefits of the treatment have since stopped. She wrote to say "thank you for all you are doing. Thank you for helping to give people time." Not time to squeeze 27 "to do" items into one day, but time to just live. Time to spend with family and friends. Those words really caused me to stop and think. The days and minutes we so often ask for to run errands or go on a trip or take a run are really such a huge gift to us all, yet we take them for granted.

As widely reported last week, Elizabeth Edwards died after living with cancer for 6 years. I saw an interview with her and she said that she knew there wasn't a cure for type of cancer she had, but treatment to try to keep it at bay. She was hoping that the research would stay one step ahead of the disease, and what she wanted and needed most out of the treatment was time. Time to be with her kids, to see them to adulthood. It shouldn't be that way. The expectation of treatment shouldn't be just for a little more time, but for a cure. Time is better, but it isn't good enough. Six years isn't good enough. One year isn't good enough. A month isn't good enough. It's better, yes. But it is not enough.

Please take the time, MAKE THE TIME, to stop and smell the gingerbread. This holiday season, and every day, we need to make sure we take the time to laugh with friends. To read with our kids. To visit family. To throw out some extra hugs to our nearest and dearest. Have fun. Take a breath. Say thank you. And appreciate each second. Take advantage of each day, and use the time you have wisely.

I am once again overwhelmed. I'm taken aback by your words, thoughts, actions, and generosity in support of my entire family and the marathon run. There aren't ways to say thank you to so many of you who help make this marathon experience as meaningful and valuable as it is, and the "marathon season" has just begun. I can say the words "thank you" over and over but I don't think those words ring strong enough to exemplify how moved I am by your support. This endeavor each year, while beneficial and valuable to further cancer research, is also therapeutic for me. It helps me find healing and strength. It allows me to feel I am doing something against a disease that has causes so much sadness and taken so much energy. Your support and kindness make it a possibility. So, thank you. My gratitude is HUGE.

Be good. Be strong.

Friday, November 26, 2010

From Mary's view

I wanted to share a link to my sister, Mary's, caringbridge site. It gives you a little insight into this week (and past few years) from her perspective. And it is beautifully written. If I did this correctly, you should be able to just click below and it will connect you.

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/maryfirth

Take a stand. Don't be still.

Dear Family and Friends,

April 18, 2011 has a “to do” entry on my calendar. At 10:30 a.m., I will be starting the 2011 Boston Marathon as a member of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge for the 3rd year. I will be again raising money for the Barr Program in Innovative Cancer Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and I would be so grateful for your support.


I was actually kind of looking forward to writing this letter this year. I was anxious to share with you all that my sister, Mary, had undergone innovative treatment this summer, and that it was working. I wanted you to know that she spent almost 4 weeks in the hospital, one in ICU, enduring grueling treatment, and she was doing well. At one month out of treatment, one tumor was shrinking. At two months, that first tumor was almost invisible on scans and a second was also shrinking. Mary started planning in increments beyond the following week, and we all were living with a little bit less stress every day. Unfortunately, on Tuesday, that excitement came to an end when Mary went in for her 3-month follow-up. The positive results, the shrinking tumors, were gone. The “invisible “ tumor was back and it had brought some friends with it. Happy Thanksgiving, right?


So, now I am writing this letter in a little bit different state of mind. This year, I am angry and I am even more motivated to continuing raising funds for cancer research. I will be running with renewed purpose and a greater sense of urgency that this disease needs to be stopped. I am not going to be reluctant to ask for funds. I am not going to be hindered by shyness about sharing our family’s story and talking about the effects of this disease in our lives. I lost my older sister, Molly, at the age of 36 to this disease. I lost my younger brother, John, at the age of 32 to this disease. And I have to sit and watch my sister, Mary, who just celebrated her 35th birthday struggle every single day against this disease. This is personal and it is important, and I need your help.


So, please join me, my family, and the DFMC team in taking a stand against cancer. If your means allow, please consider a donation to the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team. These funds enable researchers to continue their quest to find a cure, and to improve the lives of cancer patients around the world. For those of you who have contributed in the past, you know that 100% of your donation directly funds innovative, basic cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Every single cent. So, every single donation makes a difference: $5, $25, $100. Those dollars matter and are vital. If you are interested, you can make a gift directly online by visiting www.runDFMC.org/2011/jennies or


You can send a check made out to Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge to my home. Please leave me a message if you need the address.


Please know that there are ways to contribute to the lives of those with cancer beyond making a financial donation. You can volunteer your time to a cancer organization in your city. Run or walk in a race where the proceeds benefit a cancer organization. If you are in the greater Boston area, you can commit some time to volunteer for the DFMC team either during weekend runs or during marathon weekend. Send someone who has been affected by this disease a card or a note to let him or her know you are thinking about them. Plan a visit. Go out to lunch. Please share this message with others and invite them to either contribute to this important cause, or to a cause that is meaningful to them. Raise awareness and spread the word. Take a stand. Just don’t be still.


I am again blogging about my experiences (www.begoodbestrong.blogspot.com) and plan to include information about the research the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge is currently funding so you can see first hand how you contributions are helping in this fight against cancer. I also hope to continue share with you how this disease has affected our lives and the lives of our family and friends. Unfortunately too many of us have stories to share and understand how deeply the ramifications of such a horrible disease can cut.


During this time of Thanksgiving, please remember to express your appreciation to those you love and who love you. Find gratitude, although it isn’t always as simple as you’d like it to be. I am again so thankful for the opportunity to run for this organization that I truly believe to be important and valuable. I am thankful for the overwhelming and generous support that has been shown the past two years, and for all of you who share kindness, generosity, and support. I have hope that my participation on this team will help further the efforts to find a cure for cancer.


Be good. Be strong.

Believe in hope.


Kindly,

Jennie

www.runDFMC.org/2011/jennies

www.begoodbestrong.blogspot.com

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's coming around again


I'll be back....on the starting line of the Boston Marathon again in 2011. My spot on the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team, as of this morning, is confirmed and I am all set to begin training. 5 months and 24 days from now I'll be taking the first of many, many steps along the road to Boston. It is because of the overwhelming kindness, support and generosity of so many people that I am once again able to commit to this cause and this race for the third time. I've set my goal high, and am excited about the chance to again represent Dana-Farber on the marathon course.

This year, my sister, Mary, underwent cutting edge treatment for melanoma. This treatment was developed and enriched through many, many years of research. And this treatment is working for her. Once just an idea, funding for basic cancer research helped make this idea a reality, and as a result, there are many patients reaping the benefits. There are more ideas out there that need to become reality. There is now a vaccine in development for glioblastomas (the type of brain tumor that my siblings, Molly and John, had) that is working. There are genetic tests that keep people from unnecessary treatments that are working. There are many people living longer. The research is working. But it isn't even close to finished. And that is why the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge is in existence.

Last year, the DFMC team raised over $4.5 million dollars. Every single penny of that money goes directly to fund research at Dana-Farber. Every single penny. It doesn't go to pay overhead. It doesn't pay for parties. It doesn't pay for construction. This money pays for research. Innovative, basic cancer research at one of the top institutes in the country. And that is how ideas become reality. And how we get closer to a cure.

I am thankful beyond words for the research that has given Mary the opportunity to live with hope. I am so thankful for the opportunity to again be a member of this team. I am thankful for every donation, every kind word, every running partner that shares some miles with me, every hug, every smiling face out on the course, every member of "Team Jennie" over the past two years, and every effort to make these experiences so successful and meaningful. Without all of this kindness shown by our friends and family, this opportunity would not exist. It allows all of us to live with hope.

Be good. Be strong.
www.runDFMC.org/2011/jennies

Monday, October 11, 2010

Running for fun

People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing. ~Dale Carnegie

Yesterday I ran my first official "race" since the marathon. It's was a race in that I was given a number and timing chip, and I started running with 4,500 other runners at the same time aiming to cross the same finish line. But I've come to prefer calling most of these events "runs" in place of "races" because usually my motivation for completing them really is not to win or even to place well against the field. It's to just get out there and run. If I am racing, it is usually only against myself. But when I am out there running just to run, I think I enjoy the events much more. The stress is less. The anxiety is less. And the fun factor and happiness factor...you guessed it. Much higher. I still like a little competition here and there, a test of fitness or a truly hard effort that you aren't likely get from running on your own. A race. But I also like standing at the start line just happy to be out for a run with a bunch of people who feel the same way. Running for fun.

For kids, running events are always called "Fun Runs." It's the grown-up versions that are usually called races. Maybe more people would participate if the purpose of some of these events was running for fun, where you win just for participating and your finishing time doesn't matter. In fact, it wouldn't even be measured. In a time when there is such a push for people to get healthy, and I think setting a goal of participating in a fitness event is a method that works. I know that it works for me. I am a much more consistent runner if I have something marked on the calendar, a goal. I think the competition aspect of "racing" is daunting to many people, especially new runners or walkers, and maybe, just maybe, the fun factor might be a big draw to get people moving and aiming to reach a goal.

Participating in these events, even coming out and watching the runners go by, helps you to see what an inclusive sport running can be. What so many people notice when watching a race, especially one with a crowded field, is the many, many different types of people who are running. Different strides, different body shapes, different genders and ages, different abilities, different paces, and different goals. The course yesterday had a turnaround spot so there was the opportunity to see the entire field about a third of the way through the race. We could see everyone ahead of us and everyone behind us as we ran. I loved watching the thousands of people pass by. Everyone has a story. Everyone is out there for a different reason. To finish, to reach a personal goal, to help someone else reach a goal, to improve, to beat the odds, to just know that they can. It's humbling and empowering. It's exciting and exhausting. It can be exhilarating and defeating all at the same time. It's something I love to do. I guess because I think it is fun.

Somewhere along the line, this turned into a bit of pep rally for running. While it wasn't my intention when I sat down tonight, I can't say it isn't how I feel. It's good for your body. It's good for your mind. Please make sure you are in okay shape to start out if you haven't run in a while. Or in forever. And you don't even have to run. Take a walk or ride a bike. Go for a swim. Just get out there and do it. It might take some time to get there, but if you give it a try, you might just find you are having fun. Success!

Be good. Be strong.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's where the heart is

Home….it’s where the heart is. The only problem is that with my heart, little pieces of it are all around the country in the different places I've lived. “Home” is a more fluid place than just a house. It isn’t just where I currently hang my hat, or where I grew up, or went to school, or where my parents live. It’s all of these places. But, what I’ve found is that the definition of home, for me, is people not places. Friends and family. Teachers and classmates. Neighbors. Not houses and buildings.

What draws me back, what brings about the comfort of home are the people that I have known and have met in each of these places. The relationships that have built and molded and created the person I am now. The people I have learned from, grown with, laughed with, did really stupid things with. Seeing these faces, being surrounded by their laughter, feeling their hugs, that’s what feels like home. That’s what makes me miss a place.

My "home" history is as follows: I was born in North Carolina, but we only lived there for about 6 months after I was born. We moved back to New York, where my parents had grown up and most of our extended family was living at the time. When I was 9, we moved to Signal Mountain, TN (a suburb of Chattanooga), where we lived until I went to college. I went to school in Nashville, and we lived there for four years after graduation. Then we moved to Massachusetts, and have been here for 12 years. It was actually 12 years yesterday, which is actually kind of shocking to me but besides the point. In the meantime, my parents lived in Annapolis, MD for 11 years and have been near Wilmington, NC for 7 years. My husband’s family has lived in St. Louis throughout. So, physically, home has been a lot of places.

So, what did I learn on summer vacation?

I learned that although I don’t remember much about living in New York, I remember spending much of our time with our cousins. Two of my cousins came down to North Carolina for a week, where we spent most of our vacation time, and the time and distance between visits don’t matter because being with them feels like home. Digging our toes in the sand, a dance party, family dinners, a shared history. That feels like home.

I learned that although I never lived in Maryland when my parents were there, my brother and sister went to high school there, and my other sisters lived there for many years, too. Their connection to that area is much stronger than mine, but their friends, they became a part of our family. And their friendships extend to all of us. I saw this through their actions in helping make Mary’s recent stay at NIH easier for her and for our family. And those actions, those relationships make it feel like home.

I learned that what I miss about Chattanooga is people. This is the city I say I am from, having spent most of my most formative, growing up years there. I went back for my high school reunion in July, and it couldn’t have been more clear that it is the people that are home to me. People who I’ve known since before I knew much about myself. People who know my entire family, not just me. People who helped me figure out different parts of who I am. Friends. And seeing all of these faces, it was coming home.

And I learned that visiting our famillies, no matter where they live, will always feel like home. It just does. No matter how old I am, how many kids I show up with. Being with family is home.

And now, we are back in our house in Massachusetts. Twelve years is almost as long as I’ve lived anywhere else. I would say we've put down roots as a family, as “grown-ups” out on our own. Bought a house. Had three kids. Worked. Played. Met great people and formed strong friendships. It is as much of a home to us as anywhere else, but I’ve been dragging my feet a little bit since we got back. I keep thinking about how far removed we are from all of these people we just visited, and how visits aren’t as easy anymore. Not only is the physical distance long, but the obligations we all have these days fill our time so visits aren't as easy to make. But then I remember that the people that made those places seem like home again, well, many of them were going back to the places where they hang their hats now. And we are getting back into the swing of things here, and the comfortable feelings of this house return. Spending time in this kitchen with friends feels like home. And our neighbors, they make this home. And our friends, they bring the smiles and the fun. And we’re home again.

Glinda the Good Witch said, “Are you ready now? Then close your eyes, and tap your heels together three times.” Remember, there’s no place like home. There is no place like home. If only it was that easy.

Be good. Be strong.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rejoice in the beautiful game


World Cup fever has struck around our house for the past 10 days. I have watched as many games as possible, sometimes altering schedules so we can be home to watch, while trying to maintain some semblance of normal life. I just love watching it all. The excitement of the fans, the amazing skill level, the national pride. I can do without the intentional dives and the flagrant fouls, but I guess that is part of the game, too, although I am glad FIFA is trying to eliminate some of the garbage out there. I found myself home alone screaming the other day when the U.S. scored the second goal to tie the game against Slovenia. We have been trying to get the kids excited about it, too. It can be a hard game to follow on TV, but when played well, it really is a beautiful sport. It's been exciting so far, and we are gearing up for the US-Algeria showdown tomorrow morning. Good thing today is the last day of school. Breakfast at World Cup for our house tomorrow!

I grew up playing soccer. We played year round, indoor and outdoor, school and recreation. All of my siblings played and it was our family game. There were a few years on Thanksgiving that we'd gather our visiting family members and neighbors and friends and "play" while the turkey was cooking. The rules may have been a little different in those games and may have involved full body tackling, but the idea was the same. It was something that brought us all together. A bond that we all shared. We played in the yard, on the beach, in the house. Wherever there was a ball.

Way back in 4th grade, I remember my parents telling me they had signed me up to play soccer when we moved to Signal Mountain, TN from New York. I didn't want to do it. I didn't know if I would be good enough, and I didn't know anyone else. I was a kid (and am an adult, too) that doesn't like the unexpected. Despite enjoying kicking around a soccer ball at home, I was absolutely positive that playing organized soccer was not for me. My parents, who were all the wiser at the time, made me do it because they knew it would be a good way to meet people and to help make the transition easier. And they were right. Some of my strongest and most meaningful friendships were formed on the soccer field. As my early teammates and I grew older and went off to different high schools, we often played against each other, but the camaraderie of having once been teammates always remained. And in the off season from school, we often found ourselves again dressed in the same uniform playing together again. Always teammates.

So, I've been thinking, as I sometimes do when I am trying to make some order of chaos, about these teams and teammates, and the World Cup, and how it relates to our lives today. And I have zeroed in on the idea of the team, and how we all form our own team to help get through our lives. We build a team of players just as a world class soccer team is built, everyone with their own talents to offer, their own roles and jobs, that when all put together, help to bring about success. Every team has a philosophy, a way to manage their play. Some people push hard on offense, others rely more on defense. Each time has a different lineup, and plays the field in their own unique way. Plans can vary depending on the day or situation or the team you are facing. Each team is built with players that fit the ideals of the entire team. You want your team to be made up of selfless players, those who realize the end goal is the team's goal. You admire the variety of skill and level of play each player brings to the field. You try to eliminate the actors, those who throw themselves around for the drama and attention. You find that some players come, play a game or two and move on in an effort to find their best team or a team that is a better fit for their style of play. A core group always remains. Those you trust, those you believe in, those who will drop back and cover.

And as I get older, I have found that the playing field is sometimes quality and other times a little muddy and rocky. The play of game, as with life, is influenced by so many extraneous factors, but you have to keep right on playing. In fact, one of most favorite times to play soccer was in the pouring rain, in piles of mud. Yucking it up with your teammates, covered from head to toe in mud and loving every minute of it. No matter what the circumstances, the team, your team, that you have built over the years, is always standing by ready to play.

My sister, Mary, is supposed to undergo surgery on Thursday where they hope to remove a tumor in her abdomen. They aren't sure they'll be able to do it, and the outcome of the surgery will affect her progress in a clinical trial at the National Cancer Institute at NIH. Please keep Mary in your thoughts and prayers this week. She deserves a break in the right direction.

Be good. Be strong. Go USA!

P.S. The picture is from my junior year of high school when our team won the TN State Championship. Go Irish!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Float!

Back in February, we took the kids out to California for school vacation with another family, We rented a house about 45 minutes north of San Diego and flew out there with little planned, only to get to the San Diego Zoo and Legoland. We would plan our days when we got there based on the weather, mood, and level of exhaustion each morning.

For many, many reasons, it was a great trip. We had great travel partners, no expectations to be anywhere or do anything, kids that enjoyed being with each other, lots of laughs, good food, tasty margaritas, plentiful sunshine, and an escape from the New England winter, among other things. It was exactly what we needed.

And why I am thinking about that today, four months later. Actually, I think about the trip a lot, and one particular exchange between the moms the day before we were leaving. We went down the Scripps Aquarium at UCSD in La Jolla, and the two of us found ourselves transfixed by the tank with hundreds of tiny moon jellies. The jellyfish were fluid, tranquil, effortless in that tank. It was almost hypnotic to watch them floating weightlessly around the tank. She looked at me and said that she was going to remind herself of the peacefulness and ease at which the jellyfish were moving through the water the next day when we had to get up at 3:30 a.m. and drive to LA to catch our flight home (where it was snowing). And we did as as we waited line to get through security with six kids, six backpacks, two suitcases, a stroller, accidentally hidden bottles of contraband water, shoes that needed to be taken off and retied, and complaints of thirst and hunger, Remember the jelly fish. And I have many days since then. Like when I heard the new treatment plan for my sister. More simply, when in the checkout line at Market Basket or sitting in traffic with someone behind you that won't stop honking his horn. When trying to deal rationally with irrational people, or to make sense of difficult situations. Become one with the jellies and float!

Warning: I've found in the past couple of weeks that too much "jelly fish living" makes for piles of papers and junk all over the kitchen counters and a list of things to do that is never ending, and "floating through the days without purpose" mentality should be somewhat limited to times of stress and not all day long. It's a relaxation strategy that works best during the times when patience and tolerance seems to be slipping away! Make like a jellyfish and float. Relax. Just let it go.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Living Proof

With the marathon having come and gone, I've sat down to write on a few occasions, but for various reasons, I haven't been able to finish a new posting. I used to do a lot of thinking while on my long runs, and I haven't done any big runs so my "thinking" has been a bit absent. Or lacking focus. The weather has been pretty good so I haven't been able to complain about that, either. It's a crazy time of year with sports and school, too, so finding the right time to sit down and concentrate has been absent, too. This past weekend, however, has given me reason to write.

We gathered this past weekend to ride in the Brain Tumor Ride for Research for the 6th year. My brother, John, started our team in 2005 when 6 of us gathered to ride. We've come back every year since, and to date, have raised over $115,000 to the National Brain Tumor Society to fund research and patient programs. This year, the ride was a bittersweet occasion in that May 16 marked the one year "anniversary" of John's death. While John was on our minds and in our hearts, riding for he and Molly felt like the right thing to be doing on that day. In some way, at least for me, it made that "anniversary" a little easier to be participating in a cause that John and Molly felt to be important.

The other important lesson I took from the weekend was from my sister, Mary, who hopped on a bike and finished the ride when she had every good reason to kick back and take it easy. After 2 years of ongoing treatment which includes a total hip replacement, Mary did not shrink from participating in the ride this year. She had been training for this weekend for the past couple of months, even while feeling terrible from her treatment. She did not hesitate get up here and participate on Sunday morning, and she banged out the miles without a problem and without a complaint.

Mary was last here in April when she was kind enough and thoughtful enough to make a quick trip to support me during the marathon, and then head right out of town to get to Nashville for her appointments. She had follow-up scans in Nashville to see how her current treatment was going. Unfortunately, she heard the dreaded "progression of disease" talk from them and was taken off the treatment. With some guidance and a lot of independent research, Mary set out to explore the various options out there. The long and short of it is that she recently found out that she is eligible for a treatment at the National Cancer Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. She had to have blood work and scans to see if she met the criteria to participate, and she is. The waiting game, 4 weeks later, continues as she waits to hear when she can get up there and get rolling.

And so, seeing Mary, without hesitation, get back up to Boston and finish the ride again this year is humbling. Mary did this because she believes in the research, she believes in the cause, she believes in our family, and she believes in herself. Mary was one of those people that I wrote about after the marathon....the "Living Proof" team members who are cancer survivors or current patients that are out there walking the walk. She raised over $6000 independently, too, and was the top fundraiser on our team by a long shot. And she does all of this research and training and healing all while keeping up with a full-time job, and devoting a lot of energy to being an amazing friend, sister, and daughter on top of it all. Without complaint. Her attitude and behavior is the epitome of inspiring. It reminds us to do what we can to make positive changes, and to get up each day, no matter what the circumstances, and keep moving forward.

Mary, this weekend and every day, reminds me of what it means to Be good. Be strong.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The finish line





Well, the 114th running of the Boston Marathon is in the books. I finished in 4 hours and 10 minutes, and was running when I crossed the finish line. It wasn't my best running day ever, but it was definitely one of my best days ever. Even though I didn't feel great, every mile was worth it.

It turned out to be a beautiful day. We had a really ugly weekend filled with rain, some sleet, and really cold temperatures. If the marathon had been held on Saturday, it would not have been pretty. But, it cleared out for the start, and the temperature, in the 50s, was just right for running.

I took a bus sponsored by a local running club from a nearby parking lot right to the Athlete's Village in Hopkinton. It took about 2 hours to get out there from here with traffic and road closures. I sat with a woman who I recently met who was running Boston as her first marathon ever. She started running about a year ago. She has 4 kids under the age of 8, too, which makes this feat even that much more admirable. What an impressive goal, one that she accomplished, too!! It was nice to have a friendly face to chat with to make the time pass quickly.

Upon arriving in Hopkinton, I bolted for the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge pre-race haven in Hopkinton. A local church hall is set up as a refuge for pre-race with food, sunscreen, vaseline, water/gatorade, and many friendly faces. There are between 500-550 DFMC runners, and it is a sight to be seen in and around that church on Marathon Monday. We gather for a team photo before the start. After the team picture, they asked the "Living Proof" teammates to come up front for a photo. This year, there were 26 runners who are either cancer survivors or current cancer patients. They got a huge round of well-deserved applause from their teammates. What an impressive and emotional sight.

We milled around a little bit more, and then it was time to head down to be corralled for the start. They were set up for 27000 runners, and you gather in groups of 1000. Right before the start, they drop the ropes that divide the groups, and you all merge into a pack as you move towards the start. It took us about 8 minutes from where we were to get across the starting line. And we were off. Tens of thousands of people pounding the pavement towards Boston.

I knew early on that my time goal was out the window. I think deep down I knew that before I started, but had some hope that I would feel terrific after 3 weeks of rest and would be able to bounce happily towards the finish line on fresh legs. No such luck. By ten miles in, my legs were heavy and tired and I was just hoping to make it to the end. I saw some wonderful friends around the halfway point, and a quick hug and lots of smiles and cheers gave me the push I need to move on down the road. My husband, kids, sisters, aunt, cousin and neighbors were there to tell me that I was doing great and to just keep going. It was what I need to hear. By the time I saw them at around 15 miles, my legs felt like they should when I have only two or three miles left. Unfortunately, I had 11 to go. I handed over my watch to them so I would stop worrying about my pace, and just run based on how I felt. They were going to meet me about 6 or 7 miles down the road, and I needed that incentive to keep on moving.

By the time I got to mile 17, I was breaking the course down into smaller segments. Get to the next water stop. Look for the our friends at the Woodland T stop. Just get to the next hill. Another water stop ahead. Run past the Boston College crowd so they don't harass you. Run until you see the Citgo sign. Find your family again with the 23 mile marker within sight. Get a hug and some inspiration. Only 3 to go. The Dana-Farber group has a cheering crowd at the 25 mile point, and that became my next goal. The patient partners (pediatric patients who are matched up with runners) and their families are all there. I ran along next to them, giving them high fives and some cheers for being out there. I missed this last year. I didn't know exactly where they were and I was on the wrong side of the street at the time. I really wanted to feel their energy and support this year, and I am so glad I did. Only 1.2 miles left. Under Mass. Ave, right on Hereford, left on Boylston and you can see the end. .2 miles to the finish line. Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. And then I was finished.

The crowds were terrific and huge and loud and encouraging and inspiring. Too many Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge signs to count. So many cheers of "Go Dana-Farber" and "Thank you Dana-Farber" along the entire route, in every town and throughout every mile. The thousands of other runners keep you going, too. There was a man that pushes himself backward with one leg in a wheelchair. I saw him last year, and knew he was back to do it again. Team Hoyt was there again, too. They are well known up here, but for those of you who don't know them, Dick Hoyt pushes his son, Rick, in a special wheelchair. Rick has cerebral palsy, and this was the 28th year that they have run Boston and they completed over 1000 races including Ironman triathlons together. Google "Team Hoyt" and read their story. There were blind runners with guides. There was Elvis, the Cat in The Hat, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Bananas, and Mario out there running, too. There are many other charities represented, each runner with their own purpose and inspiration. There were signs reading "Happy Thoughts" and "Where's Valerie?" and "Tampa Bay 6, Red Sox 0" and "Run, Mommy, Run." And everyday runners from all over the world. It's an experience that makes you have one of your best days ever, even if you don't feel your best.

Did I feel good yesterday? Not so much. Did I love it? You bet. My aunt said to me this morning that she wasn't going to even ask me if I was going to do it again until I could walk normally again. But, I already know the answer. If I am able, I will. What I realized is that this effort, this marathon, this cause....it isn't about me or my personal goals. They are good to have but should probably be saved for a different race at a different time when that is my focus. I discovered yesterday that what makes me run in Boston isn't trying to achieve a personal best. My focus for running Boston is my family, and your family, and friends. And funding research to find a cure for cancer. That's what got me to the finish line.

Be good. Be strong.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Providing a spark

"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us." ~Albert Schweitzer

I've been trying to say "thank-you" to as many of you as I can for your support of this endeavor this year. While the financial support of this cause has been extraordinary and out of the realm of anything I could have imagined, I've been truly touched by the everyday support and kindness in a way I will not forget. I've heard from cousins, elementary school friends, high school teammates, high school classmates of my parents, relatives of family friends, teachers, my dear college girlies, friends of my siblings, coworkers of my husband, parents of the friends of my kids, friends of friends of friends, and even from many people I've never met. The breadth of support has come from far and wide, and I am inspired and motivated by all of you. Thank you for hearing our story and understanding the importance of this cause. Thank you for offering a kind word when we've crossed paths. Thanks for the emails and cards with your meaningful messages of support. Thank you for planning the 80's party, and for coming out in support of this cause. Thanks for running with me, and for pushing me to continue on. Thanks for your advice and coaching. Thank you to all of you who have stood by our family, and who have really understood and listened. Thank you for teaching me about kindness and compassion through your example. Thank for being a part of this experience, and for making it so incredibly meaningful. Thanks for providing a spark. I am truly grateful.

Thanks to all of you who have been able to make a contribution to Dana-Farber this year in honor of the marathon. As of this moment, we've been able to contribute $19,296, which will help the entire DFMC team on the way to fulfilling the $4.4 million goal. If you would still like to make a donation, contributions can be accepted for a while longer, and can be made by visiting www.runDFMC.org/2010/jennies.

I think my work for tomorrow is just about complete. Gear is all packed. We picked up my number and DFMC stuff yesterday in Boston. I've been getting some extra carbs and water on board. Dinner is planned for tonight. Spectator plans are final. All that is left to do is run, and to keep saying thank-you along the way.

If you are in the Boston area, come out and cheer for the runners tomorrow. It looks to be a really nice day. There are 26 miles of roads so finding a clear spot is not too hard! My family will be in Wellesley and hopefully Brookline before meeting me at the Finish. Let me know if you want to join them, and I'll fill you in on their top-notch viewing location. I'll be wearing #22881, my orange Dana-Farber shirt, and hopefully a smile!

Be good. Be strong.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Prep work

Marathon weekend is here. I am feeling the excitement, and am waiting with anticipation for Monday morning to roll around so we can get this show on the road! This week has been long, filled with emotions and stress and doubt, but also many well wishes and kind words. I got a run in for the first time in almost 3 weeks yesterday. No pain but lots of difficulty breathing and tired legs. But the important part of that is that I had no pain in my leg!! I hope the weeks of rest will pay off on Monday, but I am just thankful that I will be in Hopkinton on Monday ready to start. Hopefully I'll find myself in Boston a few hours later having arrived by running on my own legs!!

I finished my shirt (see picture) that I will wear on Monday, and will proudly carry the names of 135 people who have been diagnosed with cancer. Thank you for sharing their stories with me. If you are out on the course, please give a shout out to the 500 Dana-Farber runners out there. We'll all be cruising down the road in these orange shirts, so you won't miss us!

We'll head into Boston tomorrow to pick up my number and check out the expo. I'll check in with the Dana-Farber crew while we are in there to make sure I am all set for Monday. We may try to scope out a second viewing spot closer to the city. We have usually set up shop in Wellesley around mile 16, but my family may try to sneak a second location this year in Newton or Brookline. If anyone has any secrets about parking or getting to the course without a lot of walking, please feel free to share them.

And we'll spend some time relaxing. I am happy to have my sisters here, and it is supposed to be a rainy couple of days, so it is a good reason to stay inside and put our feet up. It's too cold for these Southerners in April, too! We'll eat some good carbs, and drink a lot of fluid in preparation. And by this time on Monday, I should be (hope to be!) finished with the 2010 running of the Boston Marathon, and will be relishing and rethinking the day from start to finish. I will probably be rehashing the experience while maybe having some ice cream or cake, maybe a margarita or beer, followed by some pizza or a burger. All depends on how I am feeling! Eating may be followed by a nap, and then maybe some more eating. I hope that I will be walking on my own without any extraneous bandages or ice packs attached as a result from the run, too. Without having any idea how I will feel on Monday or what kind of run it will be, I know that despite all the extraneous circumstances that affect the day, it will be good. And I will be glad it is over, and all the while, I'll be wishing to do it all again.

Be good. Be strong.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The old ball and chain

As the number of days until the marathon dwindles, I am finding my level of anxiety increasing just a little bit. The cut back on training as a race gets closer is always hard, but this year I have found it to be a little worse than normal. I don't remember feeling this way last year, but I was not trying to let an injury heal and had other things of higher priority as my focus at the time. As I've said before, running is a good activity for me because it keeps me busy, gets me moving, and occupies my mind. In the absence of this obsession, I have been restless and without much focus, and therefore, a total bother to my husband and kids!

My husband, Andrew, really isn't the old ball and chain as I named this post. He's actually quite the opposite, and a big part of the reason why I am able to run as much as I like to. He is deserving of a great deal of gratitude for making this commitment so easy for me. Having a spouse (or girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, ball and chain, etc.) training for a marathon is not easy. It's a big time commitment, especially on the weekends, and it can be a physically and emotionally draining time for both the runner and their family. I am lucky to have a husband who is not phased by this, and does what he can to be supportive. Andrew understands why I run, and how it makes me feel (which is usually much calmer and at ease). He understands how I feel when I haven't run, too (which can be edgy and impatient at best). Last week, he kindly nudged me to go "do something that will make you feel like you had gone running" so I would find a happy place again. He's been known to kick me out the door to go for a run because, more often than not, I am a happier person when I get home. He also recognizes this fine line that exists between feeling great and feeling like junk after a long run, and on those "junk" days, he so graciously suggests I take a nap. I imagine the alternative to me sleeping is for me to be cranky and annoying, so why not let me rest, right? And he knows why running for Dana-Farber is important to me. He just gets it.

The thing is that he has always "gotten it." Not just about running, but about life and family and providing support. Never has this been more evident than in the past two years. The craziness that comes with any long-term illness, like cancer, can really bring to light the core of who someone is inside. My brother, John, lived with our family off and on for five years, including the final year of his life. He came to live with us originally for about a year so he could begin receiving treatment in Boston, and over the next few years, while his health was good, he lived on his own. In 2008, John came back to live with us after the tumor had recurred so he could again begin treatment. Throughout these stays, Andrew's support was unwavering, not just of me but of John. He welcomed him in our home whenever he needed or wanted to be here. He just felt like that is what you do to help family. He believes that our extended families are one and the same. Not his family and my family, but our family. And he's always been willing to take with that whatever was coming down the road, and for a while, there hasn't been a whole lot of happy rolling down the street. When John's health started to worsen, my parents and sisters and aunts were here for weeks at a time. Andrew was happy to have them around. John's friends made trips to visit him and there were people coming and going at all times. Andrew was happy to see their faces. When visiting nurses or hospice people were here, he was always happy to help. He never complained, or at least only in jest to bring some laughs to the crazy aunties. He always shared a laugh or a joke when the mood called for it, and sometimes when the mood didn't but that is what you get with Andrew! He always tries to make better a difficult situation. He does this not because he has to, but because he wants to. Because that is just what you do.

I met Andrew in college, and frighteningly enough, have now known him half of my life. Way back when at the time we met, I could not have imagined that his easy-going, humor-filled, lighthearted, generous manner would be so important during a tumultuous few years. He balances my seriousness with laughter. He tries to make things fun even when it is hard to see that opportunity is there. He brings light in when I am sometimes inclined to block it out. He just does what it takes, whatever that might be.

We are coming off a media circus with Tiger Wood's ridiculously named "historic comeback" at the Master's. I was so happy to see Mickelson come out with the win. He played a great round of golf yesterday when it mattered, but that isn't necessarily the story. He, too, has had a personally trying year that wasn't the result of some really poor and selfish choices, and Mickelson deserved a lot of the attention that was, in my opinion, misdirected elsewhere. Rick Reilly of ESPN wrote a great story about Mickelson and his family, and what they've gone through. Take a minute if you read it. Rick Reilly: A Win Beyond Golf. He tells of his support for his wife and his mother and his children. And a little bit about winning his third green jacket. He writes that it was a win for women, which may be true, but it is also a win for the guys who work hard at just being decent guys every day.

I am happy to say one of those guys is my husband, who may be horrified that I wrote this, but he is deserving of some thanks. I'm sure he'll learn to live with the resulting fame! So, thank you, Andrew. I know I can't say it enough.

Be good. Be strong.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Day 12, 12 Days

Still haven't run. 12 days since my last run. 12 days until I HAVE to run. Until I need to be ready to run. Until I really want to get out there and run. I am on the mend, but really getting anxious with the "not running" business. Days are passing by, and I feel like I am letting fitness slip away! I know it is not entirely the case, but after months of training, the current situation is a little nerve racking. Not packing on 10 pounds while "resting" is almost as hard as the not running part!

I've been keeping active by biking, and this week I added the elliptical trainer and for the first time ever, I did some aqua jogging. There are the special belts you wear in the pool that keep you upright, and you run just like you would if your feet were touching the ground. It was a pretty good workout and really kind of relaxing in a weird, running while in a pool kind of way! You just slowly move around the pool with your arms and legs doing exactly what they would do if you were on the ground. Just no impact. No stress on the strained muscle, and some good exercise to boot. I'll definitely keep doing that as a cross-training/non-impact workout. And maybe try to swim. I never got around to adding that in this time. Oh, well.

I also got into today to see a physical therapist friend who is going to help me get to the starting line WELL. She doesn't think it will be a problem, and I am a believer, too. While my leg feels much better after the past week or so of modified rest, I am going to keep from running for a bit longer just to be safe. I really, really, really don't want to reinjure it now. While mentally it is causing much anxiety, I know it is the right thing to do if I want to finish on April 19.

So I am waiting, not so patiently, to get back out there and remind my legs what running feels like. I am also starting the weather watch to obsess over what the day might bring. I have no control, I know. The way weather works around here, we won't know for sure what the day will be like until that morning. I'm also starting to prepare and gather the goods I need for marathon Monday. I will put my name on my singlet, and add the names you have all shared to the back. Get some safety pins for my number. Some extra bottles of water and Gatorade. Body Glide. Extra socks. Jelly beans for sugar. Dry socks. A baseball hat. A winter hat. Some gloves. Directions to where I need to be before the start. Blistex. "Throwaway" clothes for the start in case it is cold. A change of clothes for the finish. Oh, and probably some ibuprofen for after. Probably a few more other items. And enough inspiration to push me from mile 1 to 26.2.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Countdown is on

It's April. It's April? Really?? It's so hard to believe that spring is here and the marathon is upon us. Six months ago I was wrestling with the decision about whether to apply to run for Dana-Farber again, and worried about the months of training that would be ahead of me. I couldn't not do it this year after the events leading up to now. Not only am I so glad that I am a member of the team this year, but I am so happy to say that the training months have gone by pretty quickly. With the marathon only 16 days away, and the beautiful weather outside, it's hard to remember the cold, snowy runs of the winter. Maybe it is a little like childbirth in that you quickly forget the tough parts about it, or maybe my body remembers what it is supposed to be doing a little better after running last year. Whatever the reason, I am through the long runs and tapering down to Marathon Monday.

Last Saturday was my final "long" training run of the program leading up to the marathon, my third and final 20 mile run. I went in to Boston to run with the DFMC team and got all 20 miles in on part of the course. The downside is that a muscle pull from a run earlier in the week was made worse by running that distance. I hadn't though much about the tightness I had experienced while running on Thursday and it went away without further bother. Friday and Saturday morning I felt fine, and so I headed out to run the final big run of the Boston training season. About 9 miles in, the tightness returned, but wasn't anything that made me feel I couldn't continue. It was more a nuisance than painful. However, my lower leg ended up bruising and swelling a little bit after I got home, and I haven't run since then! Yikes! 16 days to go and I am not running at all! I've been biking all week and that doesn't bother my leg at all. I'm just trying to keep the cardio going this week, and will probably wait another few days and then try to get out for a few miles. I ran a few blocks after my children today and there was no pain, but I want to be sure that I don't re-injure it and not being able to run the marathon at all. Expert advice says the gas is already in the tank from the 20+ weeks of training, and I am better off letting this heal so I am fully ready to run on April 19. With the pouring rain earlier this week, it was easy to hunker down and not miss running, but as the weather has improved, I wish I could get out there! I may have to abandon my expectations for the finishing time, but I know that I will finish.

In other exciting news, the grand total for the 80's benefit was $3,685. Really unbelievable. Added to the donations that have already been made and some that I recently sent in, my fundraising total is now $16,630. Yes, that is correct...$16,630!! There has been such a phenomenal effort to support this run this year.

It's so inspiring and motivating to hear from so many people who also have stories to share or support to lend. I feel like I am not only representing Dana-Farber but so many families and friends who believe this to be important. I honored to be entrusted to carry the names of so many people with me to recognize and remember how cancer has affected so many lives. This list of names that keeps growing is made up of children and adults, men and women, moms and dads, cousins, sisters, aunts, best friends, childhood buddies, old teammates, teachers, coworkers. People diagnosed with liver cancer, brain cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, lymphoma. The list goes on. But the song remains the same. It doesn't matter who it is or what the diagnosis. There needs to be a cure. One step at at time, and we'll get there.

Thank you for supporting this cause. For supporting my family near and far. And for supporting me. I am so proud of what "Team Jennie" has accomplished this year. This isn't just about one runner. Or even 500 runners. It's about the people who help get us to the starting line and beyond. This has truly been a team effort. Thanks for being along for the run. I think we are just getting started.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cowboy Up

A few weeks ago an article in the Boston Globe caught my eye. I cut it out and have had it sitting on our counter for a few weeks, and I've been thinking about it a lot. It is about "Cowboy Ethics" and stems from a book by James Owen entitled "Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West." The Wyoming Legislature recently passed a bill instilling this code into state law. While only symbolic with no criminal penalties, it is meant to serve as a reminder of how people should act towards each other.

The Ten Principles of the code are:
1. Live each day with courage
2. Take pride in your work
3. Always finish what you start
4. Do what has to be done
5. Be tough, but fair
6. When you make a promise, keep it
7. Ride for the brand
8. Talk less and say more
9. Remember that some things aren't for sale
10. Know where to draw the line

It all sounds simple enough. But to be loyal, to live with courage, to know the value of friendships, to keep your promises? That takes work, even in the best of times. It's not an easy creed by which to live. No one is perfect (although my 6 year old daughter announced last night at dinner that she is pretty close while the rest of us are struggling). It's always good to be given a reminder like this of what is important, and to let the junk just go. Shoot-outs in the town square are no longer the status quo, so just moving on from the junk is probably the better alternative. Seek out those who embody what you believe to be significant, and learn from them. Kindness. Humor. Consideration. Authenticity. Imagination. Fidelity. Truth. Empathy. Respect. Insert your favorite cowboy quality here. Embrace all those cowboys and cowgirls around you. They are onto something with this code.

Be good. Be strong.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's a Hilly Ride

You've all heard it before. Life is filled with ups and downs, cycling between highs and lows, some good days and some not as good. The experience of running the marathon for Dana-Farber is much the same, filled with some long uphill climbs and some easy rides down when you can sit back and enjoy the view.

One of the best “miles” of the training experience has been the success of last Friday's 80's benefit party for Dana-Farber. Not only was the fundraising aspect a hit with over $3000 contributed to fund cancer research at Dana-Farber, but a great community of friends came together to have fun while also supporting this important cause. Everyone truly embraced the 80's theme. There was a lot of laughing, some serious singing, and even a little break dancing. Local stores experienced a run on blue eyeshadow, and scarily enough, 80’s attire is currently readily available again in stores. Be forewarned: leg warmers are primed to make a comeback. The hits of the decade brought us onto the dance floor. Mullets and big hair shared the spotlight with turned up collars and alligator shirts. We saw representatives from the hair bands of the 80’s and people who jumped right off the pages of the Preppy Handbook. Thankfully, the many groups were able to peacefully co-exist all in the name of charity and there was no need to take it out back after the dance!

It was a great success all around. I am so thankful for the generosity given to the marathon challenge program, but maybe a little more grateful for the examples of kindness and friendship to which I was witness. I am continuously amazed by the selflessness and generosity that has been shown by our community, and am incredibly humbled to have had the opportunity to share this experience with such good, kind people. There are not words that I can come up with express my sincerest thanks to "Team Jennie" and everyone who supported this event.

In the midst of all this crazy fun, however, have been some tough days that are vivid reminders of why I am running. These are the uphills that pop up just when you think you are cruising along at a steady pace. Anniversaries and birthdays seem to be the steepest of the hills, and today is another of those kinds of days. Today is Molly’s 39th birthday. There is no doubt that I would have already talked to her this morning, and would have spoken to her another couple of times as the day went on. Maybe we would have talked about her birthday but probably more about report cards and weather and funny kid stories and what we were making for dinner and the really funny pictures from Friday night. It’s those conversations that I miss the most, and I think about them every day. She would have loved to be here on Friday with Mom and Katy and Mary, dressed up and dancing the night away with the girls.

This experience is one that can so be so uplifting and gratifying, but when I take a moment to think about the reasons why I chose Dana-Farber to represent, it is also heartbreaking. I know the hills will continue to pop up, but I also know there will be some flat stretches along the way, too. And maybe those hills will eventually feel less steep. We’ll get up over the hill today, and hope that there isn’t another one right behind it. We try to remember to coast when the day is good and enjoy the easy downhills. And when we are faced by the big ones, just drive those knees and get up and over that hill one step after another. There is always another ride down on the other side.

Thank you, thank you "Team Jennie" for everything.

Be good. Be strong. And today, for Molly, be sweet.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Catching up

Days until marathon: 35

5 weeks from today, I will be eating my pre-marathon breakfast getting ready to head to Hopkinton for the start of the 2010 Boston Marathon. It's really been a pretty quick ride overall. I hope the weather is better than it has been this weekend. The amount of rain that has fallen since Saturday is unbelievable! It's still pouring this morning, with a very gusty 40 mile an hour wind blowing. All of this rain should make for some green, green grass and lots of spring flowers. For some reason, the "Spring Forward" time change has had the opposite effect on me, and I am enjoying the peace and quiet of a dark house this morning.

With all that has been going on outside of training for the marathon, I've been somewhat negligent recently about updating my training so I thought I'd take a few minutes to do that. I've figured out that I have run about 500 miles since October in preparation for April 19, and while that number seems big, I still worry that it might not be enough! I've completed TWO 20-mile runs so far, so I have one more really long run to finish the weekend of March 27. The runs went pretty well. Pace was decent, and I was less sore after the second run than the first, which means the training is helping! I have been pretty good about continuing to go to yoga class each week, and staying on top of riding the bike, too. The running group I am a part of at the local Y has gone back to 2 days a week, and I feel like the winter training with the group has been incredibly beneficial. No major injuries to report. Only some off and on tightness in my right hip area. Stretch, stretch, stretch. I just bought my third pair of running shoes, and these will be the pair that make the 26.2 mile trek on Marathon Monday. Just plugging along, checking off the days and weeks of the training program.

As far as fundraising goes, my expectations for this year have been blown away, and continue to rise. So far, 94 different people have contributed $10,950 to Dana-Farber to fund cancer research. You all have asked me to honor and remember 118 people who have been diagnosed with cancer, and I will wear their names on my Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge singlet with pride on race day. Because of overwhelming generosity and support, I have decided to increase my overall goal to $14,610. That is $4 more than the money raised last year. In all honesty, I really didn't believe that it would be possible to top that. Because of all of you, we are getting close. And for every dollar raised, closer to a cure.

The past few weeks have been emotionally trying with anniversaries and birthdays and scans and doctors appointments. There is still yet another difficult day in that Molly's birthday is next week, but I am buoyed by the energy surrounding this endeavor. Mary had stable scans last week. The 80's party is set to roll on Friday night. I will see some of my family this week. The rain will end and the sun will shine. Winter is slowly ending it's hold, and spring is coming. I keep putting one foot in front of the other, literally and figuratively, and we get through today and onto tomorrow.

Many, many thanks for your support.

Be good. Be strong.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Blessing for John

Today is my brother John's birthday. It is the first birthday since he died last May, and it's been a much harder day than I thought it would be. It's just all so real today, and we are all truly feeling his absence.

My Dad shared this blessing with us today in honor of John's birthday because so much of it reminded Dad of John. It's a beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul.

My wish for you
I wish you not a path devoid of clouds, nor a life on a bed of roses,
Not that you might never need regret,
nor that you should never feel pain.
No, that is not my wish for you.
My wish for you is:
That you might be brave in times of trial,
when others lay crosses upon your shoulders.
When mountains must be climbed and chasms are to be crossed,
When hope can scarce shine through.
That every gift God gave you might grow with you
and let you give your gift of joy to all who care for you.
That you may always have a friend who is worth that name,
whom you can trust and who helps you in times of sadness,
Who will defy the storms of daily life at your side.
One more wish I have for you:
That in every hour of joy and pain you may feel God close to you.
This is my wish for you and for all who care for you.
This is my hope for you now and forever.

-- anonymous Irish blessing

Be good. Be strong.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Feel the warmth!

It happened. That first day when you start to realize that the winter will, in fact, be coming to end! Yesterday, the temperature got up into the 50's. The sun was shining and the blue sky was clear. The neighbors came flowing out of the house. Bikes were ridden. Sticks and sand were swept from the streets. The roads were crowded with walkers and runners. Friends had lunch on their deck. Kids slept long and hard after a day of running outside and inhaling the fresh air. There were even some convertible tops down and a sunroof might have been opened. Some people had on shorts. Moods were a bit lighter. Smiles came a little easier. We appreciated it and soaked every minute of it up. It was our first sign that spring will be here, eventually. Probably not this week, or even this month. But it is close.

Days like today are my favorite part of winter....the reminder that it is almost over and that no matter how long it feels, spring follows winter every year! Don't pack up the winter gear yet, but get out there and enjoy it while we have it!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Get your 80's On

In a whirlwind of planning the last couple of weeks, some very lovely ladies and friends here in Marblehead have put together an 80's-themed party to help raise money for my run for the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge. The event is scheduled for March 19 at the Gerry 5 here in town for anyone that is interested in joining the fun. They'll be music, food, a cash bar, a bunch of great opportunity drawings, and prizes for the best 80's attire. Tickets are $30/person, $50/couple in advance, or $60/couple at the door. All of the proceeds will go directly to fund cancer research at Dana-Farber. With the help of the kindness of many local stores and vendors (of whom will be recognized once everything is final) and of these terrific friends, it will be meaningful and fun night . If you are interested in coming, please let me know and we'll get you the details! My email address is jfsheridan9@gmail.com

As this event has gotten rolling, and I've seen the generosity and kindness of so many people again, I have been reminded of one of the biggest lessons I have learned throughout the past year...the importance of community. Neither my husband and I are from this area, nor do we have any family within 900 miles. Picking a town to put down some roots in the Boston area was almost like throwing a dart at a map. There were factors such as schools or commute that played into the decision, but it mostly came down to what looked nice and what we could afford. We didn't know a single person when we moved to the Swampscott/Marblehead area 10 years ago, and we are lucky to say that we have been so overwhelmed and pleasantly surprised by the strength of the community in which we decided to live. People move around so often nowadays, and many people don't live near "home" anymore. If you are a "transplant" it becomes so important that your friends and neighbors and teachers and classmates and teammates become your extended family and your support when your family can't be there. And that you help take care of each other. We've been the beneficiaries of this support as we navigated through the past couple of years, and are so thankful that we landed where we did 10 years ago.

This event that has been planned is a prime example of the strength of this community. Without a second thought, these women, who I first met because our children have gone to school together, got this ball rolling because they just wanted to help. To do something to make this fundraising effort a success this year. When I decided to run the marathon last year, I set my goal at $7500 and I thought that might be a long shot. Asking people to donate isn't easy, so I only approached people I knew well. It turns out that many of those kind people then asked others to contribute, who asked others, and so on. When it was all said and done, the total amount raised last year was just over $14,000. It was unbelievable. And this year, not only have people been sharing the story of this run, but these great people have planned an event to help raise even more money for this cause that is so important to me and my family. I am so appreciative of the generosity that has been shown in support of this endeavor the past couple of years, and really looking forward to March 19. This benefit party is such a great opportunity for our friends and neighbors and families to get together to have a great time, and to appreciate this community that has been so kind to us. I hope you can join us!

Many thanks to Kate McSherry, Kim Malary, Liz Scroope, Kathy Doody, Allison Burke, Dana Rieckelman, Heidi Clough, Lynn Brennan, and Jen Finnigan for putting this all together. Ya'll are good people!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Anniversary

an·ni·ver·sa·ry

1.the yearly recurrence of the date of a past event
2.the celebration or commemoration of such a date

Anniversaries mark the "big" days, the important events, the life-changing moments in our lives. Tomorrow marks two years since my sister, Molly, died as a result of a brain tumor at the age of 36. While this isn't the kind of anniversary that I consider a celebration, it is certainly one that has changed my life. There is a big empty space in the world without her here that can not, nor will not, be filled. Her life and presence was incomparable, as was the manner in which she chose to live.

Knowing Molly and being her sister has been a gift in my life. It is the reason why I feel this anniversary shouldn't pass each year without recognizing it in some way. My sister had a very easy, open way about her. It was evident from the outset when you saw the smile she shared so openly and naturally. She was exemplified kindness. Molly was authentic and true, and believed that no one should be anything more than themselves. She encouraged us all, especially her kids, to take risks and to have fun and to play hard and well. She didn't live by the clock. Molly always tried to see the bright side, the good side, the fun side. And she wore red cowboy boots. Sitting here and re-reading these qualities that I attribute to her, I see that these are the things I admire the most. The qualities that aren't as natural to me....the ones I have to work a little harder on. Trying to emulate these qualities is how I hope I can honor her life, and keep a piece of her alive every day. To commemorate this so-called anniversary.

Cheers to you, Molly. I miss you every day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Seriously?

As if there needed to be another reason to run this marathon. This week, my husband's first cousin was diagnosed with what they believe to be lymphoma. What they know is that it is cancer. He is undergoing tests this week and next to find out what type. He's 6 years younger than we are (in his early 30s) and is married with two very young children. What was believed to be chronic sinus infections has turned out to be cancer. Last week at this time, he was going about his life as usual. Probably waiting for a prescription for antibiotics or some simple fix to a nagging illness. Now his vocabulary includes words like biopsy, chemotherapy, treatment plan, stage, CT, and bone marrow. And those are the easy words to pronounce. In the span of one short week, the world has become a different place. Really, the change comes down to a matter of moments. Before diagnosis and after. Then you have your new "normal."

Getting out for training runs this week has been an easy choice. Runners are often encouraged to have a mantra or a phrase that they can repeat while they are running, often during times when you'd like to pack it in and walk off. Mine has been "you don't get to quit" which I chant in my head over and over, especially while going up hills. It is reminder that running is a choice. Getting treatment for cancer isn't a choice. You really don't have the option to quit. My sister, Mary, is tolerating a treatment right now that is terribly painful and exhausting. She takes this medication every single day, and she doesn't get to quit. My husband's cousin....he doesn't get to quit either. My brother, John, and sister, Molly. They never quit. Ever. This is what I think about at mile 16. And 20. And 26. And sometimes even at mile 3.

I run because I don't want to hear about any more reasons to run.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Choices

“Any change, any loss, does not make us victims. Others can shake you, surprise you, disappoint you, but they can't prevent you from acting, from taking the situation you're presented with and moving on. No matter where you are in life, no matter what your situation, you can always do something. You always have a choice and the choice can be power.” ~Blaine Lee

Since the fall, I've been trying to make it to a yoga class once a week. I started going to one here in town on Monday mornings that I really like and really benefit from. I feel like it helps me start the week on a calm and energized note. I can clear my head from the weekend, and start anew each week. Our teacher usually begins each class with an inspirational quote, and the one above from Blaine Lee was the one he read to us this morning. I haven't been able to get it out of my mind. I just feel like it rings true to my life. I guess it's true to anyone's life. We always have a choice. I choose power. I choose fighting back. I choose not giving up and not giving in. I choose to do something.

Training update:
Monday: yoga
Tuesday: Running group (hill repeats and circuit training)
Wednesday: Bike
Thursday: 16 miles (got my long run in before the temps dropped to single digits....brrr)!
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Bike
Sunday: 6.25 miles on treadmill (less than planned but had a hard time settling in)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rain, rain-SNOW away!

We are getting a pounding rain storm today with warm temperatures close to 50 degrees. The end result is that a lot of the snow and ice is melting away! The past month or so has been rough running outside because the roads have been narrow due to the snow banks and also very slippery. It will be nice to have a few days to get out and run with a little extra space on the street.

Another decent week of running is in the books. I been getting a lot of use out of my running gadget that I got for Christmas...a Garmin GPS watch that tells me pace, distance, time, etc. It's been a big help for me on my runs when I am trying to push the pace a little bit. I used to just try to base how fast I was going by how I felt (which was usually bad when I was going faster than normal), but now I actually know exactly what my pace is. I can adjust accordingly and can complete the workouts in the manner it was intended. I also got to share my weekly long run with a good friend, which is always a treat. She ran 7 of the 10 miles with me. Having the opportunity to catch up with her makes the time go by much quickly than when I am on my own.

Mon: Biking and yoga
Tues: Y Running group-drills and then rowing machine intervals in between treadmill intervals
Wed: 45 min. bike and strength
Thurs: 7 miles (middle 3 miles at tempo pace)
Fri: off
Sat: 10 miles
Sun: 3.5 miles

I've got 16 miles staring me in the face for my long run this week. Fingers crossed for some sun and non-freezing temperatures! Twelve weeks from today, I will be home (hopefully!!) eating 26 miles worth of calories of good food! The weeks are flying by!

Be good. Be strong.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Perspective

Every year in the fall when the temperature starts to drop, my view of what is considered a beautiful day starts to become altered. After the summer, when we are in the midst of beautiful fall days, a sudden change to 45 degrees feels frigid and horrible. However, when the calendar rolls around to January and there has been snow on the ground for weeks and weeks and temperatures haven't gotten above freezing very often, a sunny, 45-degree day feels like summer! We were lucky enough to have one of those days on Saturday, and I tried to take full advantage of it by getting out and taking my long run. Dare I say, there were times when the wind was behind me that I actually felt warm. And this was with no hat or gloves or jacket! There were a ton of people out walking and running and biking, and enjoying the "warm" day. I thought that if maybe we could just have one of those kinds of days every couple of weeks during the winter, the weather might be a little easier to take. Or would we just get used to having those days and begin to expect that as the norm? And when something becomes the norm, do you stop noticing just how special it is? It's all in how you look at it, right?

Perspective is a funny thing. It is influenced by life experiences and age and hunger and education and geography and how many hours of sleep you got last night and varying levels of information (both true and false) and so many other factors. And it is different for every single person. Just this week, we've seen the devastation in Haiti which absolutely alters your perception of your life and your needs. We've seen a surprising outcome to the senate election here in Massachusetts, possibly because the population originally perceived the expected conclusion to be a no-brainer based on the historical voting history of this state. These results will likely change the way future races are managed here, to say the least! Last week, I spent some time with my parents trying to settle some family matters that have been pretty stressful for all of us. My dad reminded us to just remember what we have been through, and that this situation, while difficult, is nothing compared to what else we've been through. Or more simply, instead of complaining about the cold, we are often reminded by the locals up here to embrace the winter and to take advantage of the fun stuff the season brings. And so we've been ice skating and sledding and skiing and building snowmen (and having fun!) instead of watching the days pass from the window of our house! Sometimes, we just need a little reminder to look at things from a different perspective. To appreciate the sunny day. To be grateful for shelter and water. To be thankful for the right to express our voice through voting. To know that we have strength because we've used it before. Often, a change of perspective is all the change we need..

Onto my training.....here's my last full week. I was out of town for a few days, so I missed a workout or two, but my runs were good. While there are still 13 weeks of training to go, I only have 6 weeks where my long run will be a distance greater than 14 miles. To me, that is a much more manageable way to face the 13 remaining weeks of training. It's all about perspective, right???
Monday: Yoga class, 3 mile run
Tuesday: Running group (drills, circuit training in gym and on treadmill)
Wednesday: Travel/rest
Thursday: 4.5 mile tempo run
Friday: Cross-training (walk, stretching)
Saturday: 14 mile run
Sunday: rest

Be good. Be strong.