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 29, 2011

Mileage count

I'd like to say the holiday season, school vacation, and a little bit of laziness hasn't thrown off my intended schedule, but it's not the case.  I haven't been too far off the running, but the cross training has been sorely lacking.  Next week.  Promise.

Week 1
12/13    4.1 mile run, 33:24
12/14    1 hour, stationary bike/light strength
12/15    6 mile run, 48:25
12/17    11 mile run, 1:32:33

Week 2
12/19    3 mile run, 24:10
12/21    5 mile run, 42:04
12/24    3.45 mile run, 27:48

Week 3
12/26   11.5 mile run, 1:36:08 (last week's planned long run)
12/28   5.1 mile run, 42:36

Only one day of cross training.  One short strength training session.  No yoga.  Must be better about those three things or getting to the starting line feeling well without injuries is not likely.  I can feel a difference when I don't include it in my week.  My intention is to cross train at least twice (bike or swim) and do yoga at least twice a week.  I also intend on drinking more water, taking a vitamin, and not eating pounds of cookies and candy.  Gonna be better.  Got to be better.  Hold me to it!!

Be good.  Be strong.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Going bigtime.

Katy, my sister, and I have created a new Facebook page for Be Good Be Strong which, like this blog, will be dedicated to raising awareness and funds to improve the lives of cancer patients and their families.

Check out our new PAGE and give us a "like" to keep up with our campaign!

Bigtime?  Probably not yet....but bigger!

Be good.  Be Strong.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's now.

"The Hopis consider running a form of prayer; they offer every step as a sacrifice to a loved one and in return ask the Great Spirit to match their strength with some of His own." -Christopher MacDougall, author of Born to Run

And it begins again.  18 weeks of raising funds.  18 weeks of training.  18 weeks of getting closer to a cure by raising at least $20,000 for cancer research.   18 weeks of many, many steps offered in honor of Molly, Mary, and John.

Monday was Day 1 of the training plan for the 2012 Boston Marathon.  I love having a plan.  A plan means motivation and direction.  It means checking off the days and the workouts and know that the training will prepare me to run 26.2 miles in April.   I like the feeling of completing longer and longer runs, in turn feeling stronger (and sometimes even a little faster).  Putting together a schedule forces me to think about my personal goals and what I hope to acheive: for the marathon, for raising money for cancer research at Dana-Farber, for my own personal well-being through running.

I also feel a stronger sense of purpose when the time for kicking off my fundraising for Dana-Farber begins.  Over the past couple of years, given the circumstances that have surrounded my family, I've become more and more committed to helping to find a cure for cancer.  This time of year is when I get to jump in and do what I can to advance the research.   I've again set my goal at $20,000 but hope to exceed that goal.  The network of people who have supported this cause and our family has grown tremendously over the past couple of years, and it is because of this generous network that I can continue these efforts.  I am planning some ways to honor and remember your family and friends who have been affected by cancer, and to help spread the "Be good.  Be strong." mantra that has become the rallying cry of these efforts. Stayed tuned for details on that....coming soon!

While the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge website keeps me accountable in terms of reaching my fundraising goals, I am also going to making an effort to be accountable in my running. I am going to (try to) post my weekly workouts so if (and likely when) I feel like slacking, I will have to write it out.  This may be of interest to some of you, maybe none of you, but knowing that it is "out there" means I am more likely to get it done.  This will likely include weather updates, since I can't seem to stop obsessing about winter.  I'll track my progress in reaching both of my goals.  Join me for some runs...mock me for slacking...offer advice.  Whatever it takes, I ask you to come along for the ride and provide support!

And so the time is now.  Training is kicking off, and so is the challenge of raising vital funds for cancer research.  Given the statistics, we will all benefit either directly or through someone in our families.  It's a challenge bigger than a marathon, and one that will continue long after April 16, 2012 has come and gone.  But it is up to us all to rise to the challenge.  And to start now so someday this Marathon Challenge will only have to provide care and support to cancer survivors...because that will be the only outcome after a cancer diagnosis.  No other options.  None.

I've said before that cancer can make you feel helpless and when I first signed up to run for Dana-Farber, it was during a time when I felt like there was nothing else I could do.  There are a lot of times when I still feel that way, but I know that this effort by the DFMC is a big something, and it is making a difference.  Please consider supporting Dana-Farber with a gift in honor of the the marathon team.

Click here to make a gift.

Be good.  Be strong.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Toeing the Starting Line

Last week was the first Runners Meeting of the season for the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge.  It's always so motivating and inspiring to gather with many teammates to get prepared for the upcoming training season.  There were so many people attending this meeting that they had to move it to a bigger room to accommodate all of the runners.  That's the first time in the 4 years I've been on the team that this has happened, and I hope it is a sign of a very successful year.  It's such a supportive group, with so much more to offer than a training plan. 

The meetings are usually a combination of running and fundraising information.  The goal of the DFMC team is first and foremost to raise research funds for the Barr program at Dana-Farber, the means of doing that is the running part.  There is a personal connection for each of the runners to cancer and each has their own reason for running.  At the meeting, we were treated to a show by two young boys whose dad is running.  He was a member of the team a few years back, running in honor of his wife.  This year, he is back running in memory of his wife and the mother of these two boys.  One day this summer, the boys came up with the idea to do some fund raising of their own.  They set up "drums" on their driveway....a bucket, a megaphone, a tamborine, etc.  The younger boy, about 5 or 6 years old, sat in a small Radio Flyer wagon and played the drums and the older brother, maybe 8 or 9, held up a sign that said they were raising money for Dana-Farber Cancer Research.  A drum show instead of a lemonade stand.  To raise money for cancer.  For their mom. These impressive young men reenacted their show for us, and then told us all about it.  One person gave them a check for $40.  Lots of people stopped and listened.  At the meeting, they presented the DFMC a check for over $130 to kick off the season.  And they signed autographs.  That'll get you fired up.

After running a half marathon in October, I had been feeling a little unmotivated to run, and took some time "off."  I'd go out for some shorter runs when I felt like it, but didn't look at what I should be doing or any sort of plan for about a month.  It felt good.  Last week, the motivation to run came back.  I felt like going a little further, a little faster, and ready to start building up.  I got out for regular runs at a decent pace and it felt good.  Yesterday, I pulled out all the articles and books and training plans I have been collecting, and have started to put together my training plan for the next 21 weeks.  I am ready to get started. 

And I'm back to writing more, and have started to put together my other plan....making this year another productive, maybe record setting year raising valuable, important funds for Dana-Farber.  Each year the support has been tremendous, and I am excited to get started again.  I'm ready.

It's November 15 and it is 60 degrees at 6:30 a.m.  Can't beat that.  I've been enjoying every last minute of these higher than normal November temperatures, all the while preparing for the winter that lurks behind these treasured days.  I'm ready for it...well, ready as I can be.  Ready to run.  Ready to remember.  Ready to break new records.  Ready to keep running the race against cancer. 

Be good.  Be strong. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Simple gifts

I just got back from a run, and I couldn't get my kids out the door fast enough this morning in order to get on the road.  I needed to escape to think and breathe and grieve and heal and celebrate and remember, but I don't think I could run far enough or fast enough to lift the heaviness that I am feeling today.  Today is Mary's birthday, and I have to tell you that it's been a tough morning.  A lot tougher than I thought it would be, and honestly, there wasn't much about today that I was looking forward to.

In the wide world of Facebook this morning, there have been such big, strong emotions shown for Mary, for our family, for her friends.  I hate seeing them and love it all at the same time because of the emotions it stirs up.  It makes me feel so overwhelmingly sad, yet comforted to know just how amazingly strong the bond is between us all.  It allows the opportunity to "be together" in our sadness, and to share our thoughts with each other.  To be closer and less alone.  To feel the love and support and strength and familiarity of friends and family near and far.

Mary left an enormous legacy by showing us how to live a meaningful life.  How to be a good friend.  The importance of family.  What it means to be an authentic, honest person.  Words like "wonderful soul" and "strong spirit" and "amazing woman" are used to describe her, and Mary certainly left an impression on an immense number of people who were blessed enough to know her.  Today, she is so deeply missed.

I love this picture from her birthday last year.  You can feel her happiness and joy, and I know how good it was for her to laugh hard with her friends.  For a brief period of time, she was given a new lease on life and she embraced each and every day.  Like a birthday present you get to open a new each morning.  She left us all many gifts...what was your favorite? 

Happy birthday, M.  Whipped cream, birthday crowns, a full moon dance party, and a whole lot of laughter.  I'm smiling through the tears.

Be good.  Be strong.

 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

4.5 million steps closer

The Grand Total announcement for the 2011 Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team was made a couple of weeks ago.  A new all-time record for the DFMC team....$4,598,628.50.  I am so proud to be a part of such a successful and inspirational team, that even in light of the difficult economy, continues to advance the fight against cancer.  This whole "finding a cure for cancer" thing is a marathon.  It's impossible to know if we are getting close to the finish, or maybe just passing through the middles miles, but I do know that we are moving forward and taking steps every day.   I also know that this DFMC team, and the $4,598,628.50 raised this year alone, is helping advance.

On a personal level, I surpassed my original goal by more than double to raise $47,721.  THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!!  This effort is not a solo one, and there was certainly a great deal of help along the way from many, many people, including the "Friends of the Firths" in Chattanooga who organized the Ride for Life to bring over $12,000 to this cause.  Additionally, more than 300 different people made contributions starting at $10 and going up from there showing that every dollar and every donation makes a difference.  We together are making a huge impact.  I can't write a check for $47,000, but my role as a member of the DFMC team is to bring together a group of people who care about this cause, and who can collectively give $47,000 or more.  And we did that, together, for which I am incredibly grateful.  

In the past 3 years of running for the marathon from Dana-Farber, I have helped to bring gifts over $82,000 to the Barr Program at Dana-Farber, along with all of you:  supporters, friends, cheering sections, family members, co-workers, gift givers, kind word sharers, readers of this blog, sharers of this story, neighbors, running partners, etc..  It is certainly way beyond what I could have imagined when I first signed up.  These funds are a gift for all of those who may face a cancer diagnosis in the future and all those who have reaped the benefits of the innovative research already conducted.  It will make a difference.

The new running season is upon us, and the DFMC is gearing up for Boston in 2012.  I am going to be back out there, logging a lot of miles between now and April, to get me from start to finish.  And I'll again be running in a Dana-Farber shirt doing my best to help get the deserving and dedicated researchers at Dana-Farber the funds they need to find a cure.

Thank you dearly for your support and friendships.  Thank you for supporting my family during some years that still are unfathomable.  Thank you for being a part of this team that together is fighting to cure cancer. 


http://www.runDFMC.org/2012/jennies

Be good.  Be strong.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Connecting the dots

"You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."
~Steve Jobs

I started writing this last night as soon as the news hit my computer about death of Steve Jobs...the news of another life lost to this terrible disease called cancer. Stupid, stupid, crappy cancer. There seems to be almost a sense of surprise that someone like Steve Jobs, who knew great success, was susceptible to cancer just like anyone else. I just keep thinking this loss is a vivid reminder that cancer knows no boundaries and does not discriminate. It doesn't matter if you have a brilliant mind like Jobs or if you struggle to read. It doesn't matter if you have a billion dollars or not enough to pay the bills. It doesn't matter if you have kids, or if you are just a kid yourself. It doesn't matter if you've got a new job or are planning a dream vacation. No rational decision to strike is made based on who you are or what your situation, and we don't get to pick who it hits or why. We don't get to pick who responds to treatment and who doesn't, who becomes well and who loses their life. Cancer doesn't play a fair game and there are few rules. For me, since about 10 years ago, there hasn't been a day that has passed when I have thought about cancer, yet I know that isn't the case for everyone. However, it is news like this about someone who has had great influence in many, many lives reminds us of this, and just how far we still have to go to combat cancer in its many forms.

One of the most repeated phrases I've heard since the news was announced is that Steve Jobs "changed the world." And he did for millions of people. His ideas altered the way we interact with each other, the way many students are now taught in school, the way we listen to music, the way information is shared and stored, the way we play games, the way we shop, the way we find our way from one place to another. There's an app for about everything. And while not everyone has the far-reaching effect on others like Jobs did, I can't help but think that every single person has changed the world. Just being born changes the world for someone else. We make someone a parent or a sister or brother or aunt or uncle or grandparent. We build friendships. We work. We teach. We are neighbors. We play. We see and know others. Even the negative changes, things that are not always be for the better, are change nonetheless. It's all too simple to go on about our day without realizing the effect we can have on others. Each in our own way, we are changing the world, a little by just living and a lot more by how we live.

Steve Jobs encouraged people to envision change. To know your dream and follow your heart. There are too many people I love that have been affected by cancer and that has profoundly and deeply changed my world. I don't have a piece of technology to remind me of that, but I do have pictures and memories and an altered outlook on how to live well and to recognize what is important in my life. I want to connect the dots and be proud of the picture I see.

I wish peace, strength, and healing to the family and friends of Steve Jobs.
Be good. Be strong.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2012 DFMC Application is ready for you to complete!!

I've been quite negligent of this blog over the summer but am planning to start back this week on a regular basis. In the meantime, I just wanted to put out there that the applications for the 2012 Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team are available. It's an amazing experience with an inspiring and motivating group of people. Think about joining the team! I am planning to be back out there again this year and would love to have friends or family join in. The team will fill quickly so if you are interested I would encourage you to apply soon. Let me know if you have any questions!

Click here to apply or to learn more!

Be good. Be strong.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ride for Life


The Ride for Life will be held this weekend on Signal Mountain, TN. All proceeds will benefit the Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. This was an idea thought up by my sister, Mary, who devastatingly is not with us to see it through. It has, instead, been carried out by 9 of her friends who call themselves "Friends of the Firths." They are amazing friends and we are lucky to know them. If you are in Chattanooga, please think about getting out and joining them on Saturday morning.

Mary's friend, Claire, wrote this article about the ride and why they have organized this event. It's a great tribute to Mary, her friend and my sister.

http://chattanoogapulse.com/pulsefeatures/beyond-the-headlines/beyond-the-headlines-finding-a-way-to-be-good-be-strong/

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reflecting

It's my favorite time of the day, the quiet of the morning before the rest of the house starts stirring. I thought that I'd still be snoozing this morning since it is school vacation week AND the marathon was yesterday, but no such luck. I am enjoying the peacefulness, drinking a cup of coffee and reflecting on the 2011 Boston Marathon, the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, and the path to get to today....one day post marathon. It was an emotional, inspired, uplifting, motivational, yet bittersweet run on a beautiful April day in Massachusetts.

The Dana-Farber runners start the day together in Hopkinton....getting ready for running, taking a team picture, signing posters for the Jimmy Fund kids who are patient partners. For me, that time full of a lot of emotion. It is the big reminder of WHY I am running for Dana-Farber, but also a time when I try not to think too hard about that or I will be a puddle of emotions on the floor and not be able to find my way to the start line. Many of the runners are survivors of cancer themselves. Many more have lost a family member to cancer. Everyone has someone close to them that has received the diagnosis of cancer. We are running for the same purpose....a cure.

I was part of the third wave of runners to start, so we headed down to the starting line around 10:20 for our 10:40 start. There was a tailwind blowing from the west, and the sun was shining trying to warm the temps up from a chilly 45 to 60 at the finish. A perfect day for running, and off we went. 9000 runners starting at the same time makes for a crowd, and there is jockeying around early on. I was able to settle in to my pace after about 2 miles, and some mental talks with myself. "You feel fine." "No pain." "You've got this." "Settle in, get comfortable, relax, and just run." And that's what I did. I really felt good yesterday, and the miles went by pretty quickly.

The scenes, the crowds, the runners, the signs....there is so much support and so much to see out on the course. I wish I could run with a camera, but I am not coordinated enough. It's a celebration for 26 miles. I was lucky enough to see some friendly faces along the way, and I thank you for getting my attention. It's hard to see people along the way if you don't know where to look. There are constant screams of "Go Dana-Farber" and "Thank you for running, Dana-Farber," always bringing a smile and a thumbs up. All of the action allows you to take in the sights and focus on something other than each step or each minute. There are people dressed in costumes like gorillas and Sonic, or in tutus or crazy hats. There are reports of the Red Sox score (which was a win) and offers of beer. There are oranges, and Flav-or-Ice, and pretzels and licorice. Thousands and thousands running, and thousands and thousands offering support.

I'm a list maker, which helps me break things down into manageable pieces. Just like I do at home, I was able to break the run down into smaller chunks, happy to get through each part and move onto the others, checking the miles off my list. At 5 miles, one-fifth of the way there (well almost....but don't tell my running self that it's actually a little short). At 9 miles, one third of the way. Halfway there in Wellesley. Three miles of flat and then a big downhill. Another, 1.5 miles to see my family which is my biggest lift. Then 3 miles and over the hills. 4 more miles to the Dana-Farber Cheering section near Kenmore Square. And then 1.2 miles until the finish. Check! I finished in 3:48:59. My personal best. A Boston Qualifying time for next year. One minute and one second under my goal.

I spent a lot of time thinking about Molly, Mary, and John yesterday. I had a lot of time to do that. I talked to them while I was running. I thanked them for showing me what strength is. What it means to give it your all. I thought of them as I chugged it up the hills, actually feeling truly strong, knowing they were giving me a little lift. I missed them with every step, and felt deep sadness that they could not be there with us to take steps to kick cancer in the ass. My mantra for the race yesterday turned out to be the Jim Valvano quote "Don't give up. Don't ever give up." I like to have some words to concentrate on during the more trying times during a run, and wasn't sure what it was going to be yesterday until I saw a sign during the early miles with that quote on it. I repeated it when my steps felt difficult, when I was starting to feel like slowing down. I have had 3 beautiful, living examples of what it meant to never give up, and that carried me yesterday. We learned it from my parents and I will carry that lesson with me today and tomorrow and the next day. Don't ever give up. Don't ever, ever, ever give up.

Thank you for all of your messages of support. For caring about this cause on behalf of my family. For your contributions to Dana-Farber. For your notes and your pictures. For being out there and cheering. For your balloons and signs that were waiting for me at home. For the hugs. For understanding how important this has been for us. For caring about all of us. I remembered this all while I was running. I truly did. It helped to carry me along on a beautiful day.

My goal for the race was 3:50. I beat it by one minute. My original goal for DFMC was to raise $20,000 and have raised over $34,000 so far. Two check marks on my "to do" list. It's been a hell of a crazy ride, and a blur of a crazy emotions. But yesterday. Yesterday was an incredible day.

Be good. Be strong.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

One last hill


My knee hurts. I think I'm getting sick. I didn't train enough. It's going to rain. Might be 85 degrees. What if I miss the start? Am I eating the right thing? I'll wear long sleeves. Nope, shorts sleeves. Nope, long sleeves. Will there be wind? I haven't done enough. I've done too much. My ear itches. This show is a rerun.

Running helps clear my mind. It's my therapy. My quiet time. My "sort through the anxiety and daily grind" time. My escape. And with only 6 days to go until the Marathon and in the midst of tapering off, I am running less and stressing more. This is like the one last hill on Hereford St. before making the turn to the finish line in Boston. I have been going out for runs that aren't long enough or hard enough to reap the endorphin, natural healing vibes I need! These feelings will settle in a couple of days, but this week is mentally trying. It's full of emotion, a vivid reminder of why I am running this marathon for Dana-Farber. It's full of gratitude, for the amazing support that has been shown to this cause. It's full of checklists and notes and planning, trying to prepare for a good day. It's full of excitement that 4 or 5 months of training was the hard work, and the payoff is on Monday.

I could have never dreamed we together could reach over $32,000 raised for cancer research in a single year. But I also never could have dreamed what this year would have been like when I signed up to run last October. I don't think anyone could have. But, I still have hope. I still believe, as did Molly and Mary and John, that we can make a difference. We can be the change. We can do this for them. So many people have donated, held events, asked their friends and family for support, shared our story, taken this effort on as their own, and I am incredibly grateful for your support of Dana-Farber and of the Marathon Challenge this year. And we're not finished yet....www.runDFMC.org/2011/jennies.

I am not a cancer survivor. But I am a survivor of cancer and it's far reaching effects. Anyone who has lost a family member is. I would run forever if it could change the way things have been, but instead, I will run 26.2 on Monday to try to change the way things will be. For my family. For my children. For my friends. And for yours.

Be good. Be strong.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Molly's Way

Today is Molly's 40th birthday. She always did birthdays big and made sure it was a special and unique day for the birthday celebrant. We can't celebrate with her, but we can live for her and honor her to ensure today is special and unique for her. Molly had an easy-going and effortless way about her. She was truly her own self all the time...no fronts or shows. Just Molly. At her funeral, I remembered a few of her best traits, her best actions, her best ways to live happily. I am sharing them with you today in hopes that we can always honor Molly and celebrate her 40th by living as she did....happy-go-lucky, with a beautiful and natural smile, believing in goodness, and loving those near and dear without condition. Happy Birthday to you, Molly.

When you smile, mean it. Let your kids wear a tiger tail or paint themselves purple or shoot the Red Rider BB gun at old cans in the backyard. Take the time to be just a little more kind and thoughtful, and mean it. Sing, sing loud, and get others to sing with you. Carry on her ability to encourage others to be nothing more than who they are, especially your kids, because no one should expect anything more. Teach the world her way of truly listening to whomever she was talking with. Sit through some red lights a few extra times so you are late on purpose because living by the clock isn’t always what matters. Hug your family and friends every chance you get. When in doubt, wear the red boots. Always play hard, and run with your elbows up. Don’t take life too seriously, and find laughter in every day. Know that life is adventure to be lived. Look at the full moon each month and remember all the blessings in your life. Try to live life with a little more dancing and a lot more fun. Because that is Molly’s way.


Be good. Be strong.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Nowhere special, just present

"When we honestly ask which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not-knowing, not-curing, not-healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness...makes it clear that whatever happens in the external world, being present to each other is what really matters." ~Henri JM Nouwen

I saw this on a friend's Facebook page and I just loved it (thanks, Kelly). It speaks volumes to what I've realized about friends and relationships over the past few years. It's certainly sound easy...just being present...but in the real world, it is much more complicated to carry out. It's hard to say why that is, and is probably way too much for this brain to analyze. But it seems to just be. I am grateful for all of you who have been "here" with me in the many, many ways you have found to be present.

In marathon news, we are four weeks out from the marathon and I am beginning to feel like I am going to need some glue and tape to hold it all together to get through 26.2. Aches and pains are fluctuating on a daily basis, and will hopefully settle down a bit. Trying to fix things without damaging others while still trying to run enough to feel like I can make it through the marathon in one piece. I have one more big run this weekend, and then will hopefully be able to mend things a bit before April 18. It's all simple enough. Countdown is on.

In weather news, it snowed today. And may snow again in 2 days. It was 70 degrees 3 days ago. Welcome to spring in New England, my absolutely least favorite time of the year. Days like this are just depressing and make you want to curl up in bed for the day. It's time to ditch the socks for flip flops and sandals. To have dinner outside. Run in shorts and a t-shirt. Let the kids run themselves ragged around the neighborhood. See all the people who have been locked inside since December and find out what's new in their lives. Open the windows and inhale the fresh air. Bring on the spring. The REAL spring! We're ready and waiting!!

Be good. Be strong.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Catching up

It seems as though I've lost the past 6 weeks or so. I can't believe it is March 16. So much happened, so quickly and I am still reeling from it all. I've been trying to get my feet back underneath me and wade through all that kind of got lost in the shuffle. That includes my training, too. I figured it was time for an update.

I've made some changes, rather additions, to the blog. If you look at the home page, you'll see some "tabs" across the top. I wanted to have additional information about the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, the Barr Program that receives the funds, some links I have found helpful, and other odds and ends.

I've started getting my runs in again on a regular basis. In addition to the upheaval of life preventing normal training, my calf injury from last spring started acting up. With the help of a very kind friend who is a physical therapist and a couple of sessions of massage on that leg, it is feeling much better. I ran a 20-mile training run over the weekend, and came out of it feeling pretty well. That is saying a lot since the week before I was limping and having trouble walking after an 8-mile run. So, I have one more long run (20-22 miles) next weekend, and then it is all downhill to Marathon Monday.

As far as fund raising goes, the total is over $27,000 right now, which is just incredible. There has been an amazing outpouring of support of this wonderful cause, and for that, I am so grateful. I am not thankful for the losses that have brought me to this place at this time....running for cancer research in memory of my sisters and brother, but I am grateful that so many people have reached out and recognized the reasons for this run. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your donations. Thank you for reading this blog. Thank you for sharing this story. It is truly a team effort.

But know that I am not yet finished. I am on a mission. For Mary, Molly, and John.

Be good. Be Strong.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Be the Change

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." ~Ghandi

We all have our "stuff" in our lives...work stuff, family stuff, the stuff that bothers you, the stuff you believe in, the stuff that makes a difference. This stuff is all influenced by our life experiences, our interactions, our relationships, our communities. It's different for each of us, and often is the guide for our thinking and our actions. So, this February 25, a day that marks three years since my sister, Molly, died, I ask you to think about your "stuff." What do you believe in? Who is important? What kind of world to you wish to see?

My "stuff" is what has pushed me in the direction of helping to fund cancer research. It's my beliefs, my pain, my history, my desire. I have been forced to recognize what is important in MY life has unfortunately deeply influenced by being a part of a family whose lives have been so deeply affected by cancer. The resulting priorities are abundantly clear, and I've tried to incorporate things I know a little about, like running, into making some changes that I wish to see. It's how I know to help. Because cancer has been forefront of my mind for so many years, I tend to be affected and inspired by examples of others in similar situations and how they have made changes in their lives....changes that affect many, many others.

My friend, Wendy, experienced the devastating loss of her two year old daughter, Emily, five years ago to a cancer called neuroblastoma. In the midst of their pain and recovery, she and her husband started a foundation called "Emily's Power for a Cure" that raises money for research and for making the lives of families affected by this disease easier. This week, a pediatric CT scanner and kid-friendly waiting room was dedicated at TC Thompson Children's Hospital in Chattanooga in honor of Emily. They had been through the testing with Emily when the option for a pediatric scan was not available, and they saw a need for a change. The foundation donated $300,000 to fund this center, and the ribbon cutting was covered by the local news (http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/feb/24/ransom-six-honored-for-fighting-cancer/). There assistance is not only monetary but emotional as well. They reach out with support for local families who receive this diagnosis and try to alleviate the burdens that accompany the medical diagnosis. Their family is the change.

There is a local high school student, who I have never met personally, who lost his father in 2009 to colon cancer. Nolan is a pentathlete and last year, he decided to ask for pledges based on the number of points he scored in the All-State Pentathlon in Boston. He raised $10,000 for the MGH Cancer Center, and he is competing and fundraising again this year. Nolan created his own website (http://www.running-for-a-cure.com) and is reaching out to the community to support his efforts to honor his father. He is the change.

Two friends in the past week have signed up to run and/or walk the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville at the end of April to raise money for cancer research at Dana-Farber. Deidre, a former co-worker, registered with Dana-Farber's "Running the Race Against Cancer" program to raise money directly for this wonderful institute in honor of our family. She created a personal website and committed to do this because as she said "words were not enough." She is the change. Gina is also running the same race and has asked that funds be channeled through the DFMC program of which I am a part. She is running because she "learned the death of someone close to you either stalls you or forces you to put one foot in front of the other." She is the change.

My sister, Mary, had hopes of organizing a bike ride in Chattanooga to raise money for cancer research. She believed in it, and although it ultimately did not bring about the results she had hoped, she knew that her participation and support might influence the lives of patients down the road. Many of Mary's friends are working hard to bring her hope of a bike ride to life, and are following through on their promise to her. They are the change.

These examples all have to do with cancer research, but ultimately, that isn't my point. It's just a long, roundabout way to get to my point because it's what I know and where my focus falls. The point is that these people saw a need and they are acting on it. There is plenty of change out there for each of us to make. It doesn't have to be complicated. It doesn't have to be an every day occurrence. I know that the time each of us has to commit is as varied as our interests, but sometimes it only takes a moment to "be the change." It's so easy to wait it out, to hope that change will come on its own somehow. I am as guilty of that as anyone, often believing someone else will take care of it. But we can all walk the walk if we truly recognize our priorities and just take a step

So, today I will try to find some hope in a day that brings sadness. I will try to see the changes we can make out there. I will try to walk the walk, especially for Molly. I will continue on my mission to help bring change in the world of cancer treatment, and will not give up on remembering the people and the things that were important to Molly.

Be good. Be strong.

The beautiful artwork embedded with this post are of Molly's red boots, and it was painted by Kim Clayton, a friend from high school.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Slow Motion

Where is the pause button? I'd like nothing more today that to put life on hold for just a little bit of time, to have some time to process this craziness that has occurred. And I mean LIFE, not just my life. If everything could just take a little break for a while, it would allow some time to take some deep breaths. To remember and cherish and process. To catch up on all the things that have flown right by the past couple of weeks and landed in a big "to do" pile that is begging to be addressed. To figure out what our new "normal" will be moving forward. And to not have to worry about obligations and bills and grocery shopping and cleaning and paperwork and difficult relationships and so much other stupid stuff that requires attention and energy. Pause. Stop. Time-out. Whatever it takes.

We are not afforded that luxury, though, and we all know there is no magic button that would allow for that kind of time. We are granted little reprieves now and then, and help in the form of good friends. But, life keeps moving whether we move with it or not. There are vacations and birthdays and school and work and training and playdates and houses and exercising and all kinds of other things that will keep happening, just like before. Lives are being lived, just like they were before, even when you want to scream for everyone to STOP. That's just how it works. Calling "time-out" in order to have some time to play catch up just isn't an option.

And so I get up in the morning and we go about our routine. The routine things...that's the easier stuff to do and it what keeps our little piece of the world spinning. That spinning is a little slower, maybe, but it is still moving. And when I find I am getting through those routine things, I'll start thinking about the more complicated tasks. And they'll be added back in to our lives. And by doing these things, it keeps our little piece of the world moving despite a vastly different reality than just two weeks ago. It is a changed world in many ways, but since we can't keep life from continuing on, we'll just have to try to control the pace a little bit until we can catch up and grab on again. Perhaps instead of that elusive pause button, it is instead a slow-motion option we are able to each use at our discretion until we find we are able to continue at our own pace, whatever that may be. We have to keep moving, but how quickly we do that right now is an option we can control.

It's taken me a long time to write this. A couple of days. Lots of hours, and I am not even sure it is exactly what I want to say, but it is a start. Making sense of all that has happened has been and will continue to be slow, and writing sensibly has been even slower. Maybe because there aren't answers and honestly, there is little about it that makes sense. There is so much spinning around and what I want to do is tell you stories about Mary and Molly and John, especially for those of you who were not allowed to personally know them. I want to push rewind and tell about the days when cancer wasn't such a player in our 7 person family. I want to ask questions of people who might have some answers, and yell at people who don't. I want to find a way to express my gratitude to so many people that have stepped in to help ease the pace of the past few weeks (and years) without ever needing to be asked. I want to explain how getting out to run and run and run sometimes helps this to feel a little less painful. I want to find a big, giant, enormous way to help eradicate this disease so no other families have to experience such losses. I want to try to explain what an amazing example of selflessness our extended family has been over the years by always showing up, and staying. There are so many feelings and emotions and people and relationships and stories to share, but it all seems too fragmented right now. Moving and thinking in slow motion will do that, I guess.

In the meantime...Be good. Be strong.
For Mary, and Molly, and John.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mary Frances

My sister, Mary, died Monday night from complications from melanoma. She was at home with her family and some of her close friends with her. Mary lived with such courage and strength. I don't have a lot of words right now.

http://www.chattanoogan.com/articles/article_194116.asp

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Just Dance

"Nobody cares if you're not a good dancer. Just get up and dance. The same holds true for racing. Whether first or last, we all cross the same finish line. Just get out there and run." ~ Dean Karnazes

Loved this quote. We're big fans of dance parties at our house. Sometimes just turning on some music is enough to brighten the spirit, shake kids out of the crankies, relax the mind, get us through until dinner time (which is shortly followed by bedtime), make you forget about the junk that sometimes overwhelms us, fills the hours of another snow day. Dancing makes you smile. A good song, played loud, can get your moving. You can't help but feel good when you've got your dancing shoes tapping. And it is true....it doesn't matter if you are "good" at it. "Good" is relative. The dance party does not discriminate, and welcomes all dancers. Running is much the same way. Finishing is the goal, no matter how fast or how far. Everyone moves at the own pace, with their own stride, in their very own quirky way. And it just feels good, just like dancing. So, get out there. Rock that run.

Be good. Be strong.
Dean Karnazes

Monday, January 31, 2011

Quick news

A quick update on running and fundraising....

The weather has not been my running friend this month. We've been getting pounded with snow every 3-5 days, and are about 50" over average snowfall totals for this point in the year. Our roads are narrow due to snow banks, the air has been cold, and the snow storms keep coming one after another. I have been doing a fair number of runs on the treadmill, so I am getting them done, but they aren't as enjoyable as a nice, sunny day outside! Here is a picture of our street as of the weekend.
I was able to get in a 15 mile run on Saturday outside, which was great. I felt good, didn't get hit by a car (although there were some close calls), got through it without listening to music for safety reasons, and wasn't completely numb upon returning home so it was all in all a success. We are set for at least another foot of snow this week, but I am hopeful there will be an opportunity to run outside this weekend. I am due for another long one. We are lucky that our roads are cleared so efficiently but I do wonder where all of the snow is going to go! We are running out of room.

I am now almost halfway to my goal of $20,000. There is just over $8,000 posted to my page, and I have a donation in process of being submitted and credited. A local group, the North Shore Mother's Group, had their annual winter social event last weekend. This is a group comprised of local mothers who have a variety of events and programs throughout the year for families. This year, they made a decision to have a charitable component to each of their events, and were kind enough to make a donation to the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge from proceeds from their Winter Prom night. Andrew and I attended the event, and it was a lot of fun. They presented a check to the DFMC for $1,000, and I am incredibly grateful for the generosity of all of the members, and to the board for considering this cause as a beneficiary of their efforts. It speaks volumes to the kindness of many people in our community, and their efforts to "pay it forward" in many different aspects will certainly have long-term benefits for many groups in our area. Thank you, NSMG, for your support!

Please keep my sister, Mary, on your mind. She started a new treatment last week. She is just feeling completely worn out. Yet, she gets up, works, tries to exercise, always smiles, and has a kind word for everyone. She continues to inspire and impress each and every day. It is why I run. It is why so many of us run.

If you would like to contribute to the DFMC, please visit www.runDFMC.org/2011/jennies.

Be good. Be strong.

Friday, January 7, 2011

100 days

Just saw online that there are 100 days until the Boston Marathon. 100 days. 14 weeks and 2 days. The marathon training season and fundraising has gone quite well so far. Fundraising probably better than training, but in my opinion, that's a good thing. I've raised just over $6,500. Of course you all remember that 100% goes directly to fund cancer research at Dana-Farber. Yes, 100%. It's the amazing part of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge and the Barr Program. $6500 is just over 30% of the way to my goal of $20,000 with just over 3 months to go until the marathon. I'd be so bold as to say that the fundraising is off to a very quick start in comparison to prior years. In marathon running a start that is too fast is a big no-no, but it certainly works in regards to raising money for a world-class cancer institute!

One of the things that I am proud of and so thankful for the number of different people who make contributions. So far this year, 58 different people have made contributions to Dana-Farber. Each donation is meaningful and personal. Some are incredible surprises. Some come from people I have never even met. A few arrive with touching notes. Many are from people who have made donations for each of the past three years. Others are from groups of people who have combined their resources to give in honor of my family. Many include a personal story. Every single one is incredibly generous. Every single one is important. And I am so appreciative of each and every contribution. Thank you for putting me on the road to another topnotch year. My deepest thanks to all of you who have been able to make a contribution to this fantastic organization.

My running has gotten back on track after a sore hip kept me off the roads for a week, and traveling for the holidays slowed things a bit, although, to be honest, not as much as I figured it would. I was actually pretty good with getting in my scheduled runs although I didn't do any additional training like I had planned. I ate like it was my job, and the number of cookies I consumed within a two week period has also slowed me down to a drag at some points as I now try to pick up my heavy legs and shuffle on down the road. Better eating, better running, better cross training are on the schedule now. I am on track with some strength training and cross training, both activities which I hope will keep me well and running strong for the next 100 days and beyond. And so far, the weather has not bothered me at all. So far.

For those of you who have any interest in distance and workouts, here's my week in review: I did a long run of 11 miles yesterday and was joined by a friend who is training for a half ironman in early summer. She is much faster than I am (much, much, much faster), but slowed down enough for me to keep up, and she wasn't huffing and puffing in exhaustion at the end so was able to keep some conversation going while I felt like I was grunting out one word contributions to the conversations. While cold, it was a beautiful morning in town and I was able to appreciate the views for most of the run. The air is clear and refreshing in the winter and the views of the water are picture perfect. The rest of the week included a short recovery run on Monday with my husband, who has been trying to kickstart his running again. I did some hill repeats on Tuesday on the treadmill before the Endurance Running group at the Y. That class included many drills to improve form and balance, some sprints and some strength work, at which time by incredible weaknesses were outed for all to see. I rode the stationary bike on Wednesday, and will get in a 7 mile tempo run this weekend with my half marathon training partner. And maybe another bike ride or short run, too. 100 days, and many miles to go!

I hope the New Year brings you all much happiness, many laughs, and fun times with family and friends. Things to come on the blog....information about what the Barr program has been funding. Updates about my amazingly strong and enduring sister, Mary, who is starting another experimental treatment on Monday. Maybe some New Years resolution thinking. Training updates and running news. Lots of gratitude for generosity, friendship, family and support. Probably some weather news because I just can't help it. I'm a Southerner living in the frozen Northeast. It's a fascinating subject.

Remember....be good and be strong.
And Happy New Year to you all.