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!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Seeing the Why

Last Saturday, I went into Boston and met up with about 100 other Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge runners for our last "long" training run of the season.  We were to run out 11 miles on the course, and turn around and run back.  Boston College to Natick and back.  Simple concept, and not so hard to execute as long as you just keep moving!  I had a good run, falling in with 4 other teammates of similar pace.  We took turns leading the way, and got through the 22 miles mostly unscathed, with some good conversation and get to know you talk.  It was a perfect weather day for a long run...overcast and 50.  The atmosphere on the course was electric with hundreds of other runners out testing themselves on the actual Boston Marathon course 3 weeks before the BIG day.  All is all a success, and in terms of running, I got out of it what I needed. A good, long run to conclude the peak week of training.

I got a little more out of it in terms of inspiration.  At each group run put on by Dana-Farber, volunteers set up water stops every 2-3 miles.  These wonderfully kind people stand outside for hours, early on weekend mornings, sometimes in sub-freezing temperatures and gusty winds.  Many are former patients, families, runners, or Dana-Farber supporters.  We run from January until April together, so generally speaking, the weather is not ideal for standing still outside.  But they do it, each and every week, and it makes our lives easier.  They have water, Gatorade, pretzels, gummy bears, and my personal favorite...peanut M&M's.  And they always have a smile on their faces and encouraging words for every single runner that stops in for some fuel.

This week, we had a family come out to man one of the stops for us, and since it was an out and back course, we hit each water stop twice.  Matty's family...his parents, brothers and friends...were out there with balloons, "Don't Stop Believin" playing loudly, big cheers and applause for our team.  They were out there in honor of Matty, whose "Angelversary" was the next day, March 25.  5 years since his family had lost Matty to cancer.  They also had a big picture of Matty. I saw his smiling face on that picture during our first stop, but on our way back, I stopped to look a little closer and there was the year 1999 marking his birthday.  The year he was born is also the year our oldest daughter was born.  But next to his birthday was his "Angelversary" and standing there making that connection really got me.  He should be 12 years old, but his picture was that of a sweet-faced 7-year old and it always would be.  I had to step away, take a deep breath and collect myself and get moving.  This lovely, kind family was out there to celebrate Matty's life.  They had such a positive, enthusiastic attitude, and how do you not find inspiration from this family out there honoring him in such a positive way, and reaffirming their commitment to bringing an end to cancer.  How do you say thank-you for that?  You can't.  You just don't stop, and keep running.

Saturday was also my sister Molly's birthday.  It would have been her 41st, and there would have likely been "getting old" talk, with some jokes and digs in there, cake and paper crowns.  She did birthdays right.  But like Matty, Molly's pictures will not show her age beyond 36.  No gray hair or wrinkles, always the twinkle in her eye.  I got a little lift from her on Saturday, maybe I do every day, but she was certainly along for the duration.

And with continued inspiration and a final really long run, the beginning of the end of training is here.  About two to three weeks before a marathon, the process of tapering begins.  For many (if not all) runners who have been training for months for an upcoming marathon, TAPER time is a welcome occasion.  For the Boston Marathon, Saturday marked the last "long run" and the beginning of our taper leading up to April 16.

"Long run" is a relative term.  When beginning training 15 weeks ago, it meant 8-10 miles.  Saturday, it meant 22 miles which is a BIG difference, but also totally doable given the gradual increase over time.  The schedule for the coming week week, when our miles are decreasing, calls for only 12-15 miles.  At what point 12-14 miles becomes a "short" run, I am not sure but it sounds awfully nice after 22.  Mentally and physically, the next three weeks allow for some healing and resting before the marathon. 


Although the TAPER period for running has begun, my efforts for raising funds are still moving in the opposite direction.  I am still in the process of trying to increase the gifts we gather for the researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  It is not too late.  There is no gift too small (or too large, for that matter!).  EVERY cent matters and every cent helps.  I set a goal of $20,000 for this year, with a hope that it would be the minimum amount raised.  I'd certainly be grateful for your help in reaching that milestone.  We are almost there!

There are two parts to this Marathon training story....the "Running" and the "Why."  The Why gives Running some additional meaning and purpose beyond what I reap from just regular runs around town.  These two pieces of my life have really become truly intertwined over the past 4 years when I started running the Boston Marathon for Dana-Farber.  I believe in both of these things.  The people I've met, the stories I've heard, the roads I've run, the research that has been funded....it's made a difference, to me and I hope to others who may reap the benefits.

Be good.  Be strong.

To make a gift, please visit www.runDFMC.org/2012/jennies

Friday, March 23, 2012

Unless

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better, It's not.
~Dr. Seuss

I took my kids to see "The Lorax" last week, and admittedly, I have not read the book.  We've read a whole lot of Dr. Seuss but not that one.  When the above line was spoken in the movie, I began repeating it to myself so I would remember to look it up when I got home.  Lucky for me (and my memory) the quote was posted at the end of the movie so I had another opportunity to tuck it away in my brain.  Those words written back in 1971 by Dr. Seuss about environmental issues speak volumes to me, and I think it is still a relevant concept in so many ways.

The Chief Scientific Officer of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Dr. Barrett Rollins, stopped by the DFMC runners meeting last night to talk briefly with us about the Marathon Challenge team and the Barr Program (the beneficiary of the funds raised by all of the runners).  In addition to being the CSO of Dana-Farber (one of the top cancer centers in the United States), Dr. Rollins is a 12-year member of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team, raising funds and running along side us because he truly believes in the importance of what we are doing.  He talked to us last night about some of the research the Barr Program has funded, and drew direct links between that research and new treatments out there right now that are bettering the lives of many people diagnosed with cancer.  There is a direct connection between the funds these researchers receive from what we are doing and effective new treatments.   It's as simple as that.  It's hard to see in the early stages of research studies (and hard for this non-scientific mind to understand all the scientists are doing), but to be able to visualize how these ideas develop and eventually become new, effective treatments is confirmation that the DFMC makes a difference.


So, why does his timely visit to talk to the team really matter to me today?  And why does it matter to Mr. Lorax?  Because he helped to remind me that caring about this cause and running this marathon is helping things get better.  There are certainly many days when I am more than frustrated about cancer, and what sometimes seem like the lack of advancements or changes.  People we know are still losing their lives or are not given great options for treatment.  Some days, there doesn't appear to be hope.  And my frustrations and anger at how deeply this disease can affect families raises questions about whether we can make a difference.  But we are.  We are, we are, we are.  Hearing what Dr. Rollins had to say about the importance of what this team is doing verified that.  It's a long road, and honestly, I don't know that the finish is yet in sight but progress is being made every day.

Each of us have things we care about it....politics, education, childcare, trees, religion, food, exercise, friends, health, coffee....whatever it is.  I know for me, sometimes it is just easier to accept things as they are then step in and try to help out, to make it better.  But unless we care enough, "a whole awful lot," to DO SOMETHING, it isn't going to get better.  It can be a simple act or it can be gigantic.  It can be whatever you have within you to do.  When we can, using our abilities and within our limitations, we need to DO...not just talk about it, complain about it, criticize it, praise it, laugh at it, whatever.  DO IT!  We have the ability to make changes.  We do.

Tomorrow is the last long run of this training season before the marathon.  22 miles.  I am looking forward to getting out on the course with my teammates, people I am so inspired by and proud to run with and to call friends.  I am just $2000 shy of my goal of $20,000 this year and am once again overwhelmed and grateful for the support.  It is making a difference.  There is no doubt about that.  Thank you for caring a whole awful lot.

Be good. Be strong.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

It is what it is

I am lucky enough to wake up this morning looking at a snow covered Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.  It's a beautiful, bright blue sky, clear morning and if I could figure out how to upload a mobile picture onto here, I would share it!  It's calming and peaceful and awe inspiring, and it feels like the right place to be on my brother's birthday.  He loved the mountains and being outside.  He loved to use his camera to capture scenes like this, photos that made you feel like you were there, too.

He was born 35 years ago, and I vividly remember the day my parents brought him home from the hospital.  He did not stand a chance from that day on being the youngest of five and the only boy.  We certainly did not make things easy for him, but I'd like to think we gave him enough love and attention from an early age that he still felt it when he packed up and moved thousands of miles away from us for a much needed respite!

When John needed to get additional treatment following his second surgery, he came to live with us in Massachusetts.  While there is no gratitude for his cancer diagnosis, I will be forever thankful to have had the years that I did to spend with him.  He lived with us for a while, and then on his own, and then came back to live with us with his treatment plan called for more.  Knowing him as an adult (although he was always the baby) was a irreplaceable gift.  We talked all things Red Sox and suffered through the Aaron Boone HR before celebrating the World Series in 2004.  We went grocery shopping and took the kids to play miniature golf.  We celebrated holidays and birthdays, making ugly cakes with sprinkles to hid the flaws.  We sat together through his chemo and radiation treatments and managed doctors appointments, those with good and bad news.  There were a lot of ups and downs, but I appreciate all of the moments.

John is the biggest reason why "Be good. Be strong." is the name of this blog, a mantra I repeat when I run, a tagline,a t-shirt, etc....but most importantly, a way to live life.  Molly used to say "Ya'll be good" or "Ya'll be sweet"when saying goodbye to people or to end emails she had sent.  When John designed t-shirts for the Brain Tumor Society bike ride our family participated in, he put "Be Good.  Be Sweet.  Be Strong." on them in tribute to Molly, he himself adding the Be Strong.  He then started using "Be Good. Be Strong." on his Caringbridge page, taking out the "Be Sweet" because he'd probably had enough "girlie" in his life, and it became his message.  It's become a message we've truly embraced. Live well by showing goodness and kindness and respect to others and to yourselves.  Be strong, not just physically but stand for what you believe and for what is right.  Fight the good fight.  Be good and be strong.

It's been an emotional week for me.  I love and hate days like today, when remembering is bittersweet.  I really felt the sting of Jeff's death, knowing how difficult this week has been and what the coming days hold for his family and friends that knew him best. It's just so difficult to grasp.  I had one of the best runs of my life on Sunday, yet have felt really off since then...more than just fatigue from a long run.  I have felt an overwhelming sense of pride about my high school community who I believe really comes together in support at difficult times.  Which leads me to a feeling of sadness being so far away and disconnected from the very thing that has brings such pride.  A lot of ups and downs...it is what it is.  Nothing else.

I am going to go out and do some cross-country skiing, a much safer alternative than downhill for a newbie skier like me who is trying not to blow out a knee five weeks before the marathon.  I am going to embrace breathing in the clean, cold mountain air...thankful for the opportunity, reflective of this day and this week, and grateful for the good people in my life.


Happy birthday, John.
Be good.  Be strong.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In sympathy

I learned this morning about the death of a high school classmate.  Jeff lost his life to brain cancer just as my sister and brother did.  I fell in between he and his brother in school, yet high school was small enough that you spent time with and developed friendships with many kids outside of your own grade.  We supported each others sports teams throughout the years, and shared classes.  I have not seen Jeff since I graduated from high school yet was profoundly touched by the strength and fight and compassion of he and his family as I followed the news of his health, and found myself really overwhelmed with sadness this morning reading the news.  My heart breaks for his parents, his brother, his wife, his daughter, and his friends.  There is no sense to be made of such a devastating loss.   I also find myself angry that yet another family finds themselves saying goodbye to a person who should not have left this life right now, knowing the pain and the long road they've traveled together all the while hoping for a different outcome.  As much as you try, you are never prepared to face this.

I will say prayers, and send love and hope for strength and healing for all of the people who are so profoundly feeling the loss of such a young life.  I am inspired by his courage and kindness, and as I run, I will dedicate miles to Jeff and the Millers, because that is what I know to do when I just don't understand the ways of the world.  It will be with a heavy heart.

There's very little that can be said.  I am sorry is just not enough.   I hope that knowing so many people are surrounding them all with love provides a small bit of comfort as they navigate through some really difficult days. Be kind and love each other without condition because sometimes when rendered helpless, that is all we can do.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Running your own race

That lone figure in the back of this picture is Desiree Davila, who eventually placed 2nd in the 2011 Boston Marathon.  Once the lead pack took off, she was pretty much written off as a contender.  I don't think she was even much of a  thought to be on the podium at all, but the fact that she didn't push to keep up early in the race had the analysts dropping her from coverage.  But not for long.

Desiree kept running, all the while sticking to the plan she and her coaches had developed.  HER plan.  She plugged along at the pace that was best suited to her mile after mile, not getting caught up in the excitement of the race or feeling the need to push ahead to keep up with the lead women.  Eventually,  she caught that pack.

And then she passed all but 2 women.  She ran with both of them for a while, and then one woman fell back.  All the while, Desiree Davila stuck to her plan and kept plugging along through 25+ miles.  With about a half a mile to go, she gave what she had left and it was almost enough.  She placed second, with only two seconds between her and the winner.

It was a great race to watch play out over 26 miles ( I record the TV coverage of the marathon and watch it when I get home).  I've read a couple of articles about Desiree's race that day, and she was spot on her plan for the day.  She knew her strengths, she knew what she had trained for, she knew what worked best for her, and she stuck with it.  She didn't get down on herself and just kept going.  And it worked.

I love that race story, and as I've written many times before, running often mimics life.  Know what works best for you.  Don't worry about keeping up.  Run your own race and write your own story.  Just don't give up.