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!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New year, same commitment

“What grief is, is a form of love, but with the loved one gone.  So the work of grief is to find a new form for that love, to find a new expression for it, a new commitment, a way to honor the love.” -John Woodall

This is what brought me to the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge six years ago.  Grief.  Then and still now, running for the DFMC team has been a way for me to honor Molly, Mary and John.  And while the grieving is not done and the feeling of loss are no less than they were when I ran that first mile for them, participating with this team by helping to find a cure is one of the best ways for me to process the immense loss in our family.  This has been my commitment, my way to share my love.

As the calendar flips to 2014, I want to wish you a very Happy and Healthy New Year.  And more importantly, to say THANK YOU.  I have so much gratitude for the support given to the DFMC in the past year, and I look forward to the coming year with renewed hope and excitement for the work we are doing together to find a cure for cancer.  I am committed to this goal in honor of Molly, Mary, and John...to aim high and keep moving forward in this fight, and am thankful to you all for being by my side over the miles. We are making a difference.  I promise.


www.runDFMC.org/2014/jennie

Be good. Be strong.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Starting line

Well, I started writing this yesterday when it was actually Day 1 in the 18 week training plan that will bring us to April 21, 2014 and the Boston Marathon.  I ran out of time, and am now sitting at the table watching a predicted 4-7" of snow fall peacefully outside the window.  When I say "peacefully" I really am mumbling obscenities under my breath since we got a round of snow on Saturday that was followed by rain, which was followed by temperatures that quickly dropped into the teens and froze all the slush, which was followed by temperatures this morning around 10 degrees, which has created a giant ice skating rink on the sidewalks and a lot of streets.  But anyway, while training is a year round endeavor, "official" training means following a schedule, documenting the  miles, doing speedwork, building the long run, being accountable.  And that by the book "official" training started yesterday. 

I had to take some time off late summer and fall due to some plantar fasciitis issues I developed over the summer.  Time off, stretching/strengthening, and some PT by my good friend and amazing physical therapist, Sara, has gotten me back to running.  I have been rebuilding my base miles and am back up to where I like to be when kicking off training, although the miles are definitely slower.  But, I am not starting at zero and am confident that with a little bit of time and continued consistent training, I'll be able to get back to where I was in the late spring. 

Training for Boston is always an emotional roller coaster.  On one hand, I am surrounded by positive people who are running to reach the same goal as I....funding important cancer research.  I like having a goal and a plan to follow.  I like the running.  But on the other hand, the months leading up to the marathon are filled with difficult milestones of Molly, Mary, and John's lives.  Birthdays and sad days and holidays clog the calendar in the coming months and even with time, those days are not really any easier than they were in prior years.  While I am grateful to have the marathon as an end goal to keep me moving forward, there are a lot of sad reminders in the coming month of what has driven to me to be out there in the first place.  We staring Christmas square on right now, and each year is an adjustment trying to find a good place...a different place...a new place with our worlds that are missing important people.  These kinds of days are a challenge, more so than getting out to run.

In addition to the regular ups and downs that come with this time of year, this training season is also going to be one filled with recognition and remembrance of the bombings that took place last year.  It's still unreal to think about all that happened, and to think of the lives that have been so strongly and forever affected. I can't read or hear stories without tears forming. There are stories of great joy like the bombing survivor who just got engaged to the nurse he met at the rehab hospital where he was recovering from his injuries.  And stories of triumph like those who were at the finish line last year and the site of the bombing who have recovered enough to be running the marathon in April.  And those of such deep, deep sorrow like the Richards family who lost their son, Martin, and 3 of the 4 surviving family members have long-term injuries not to mention emotional injuries that won't heal. And those of so many who are learning to walk on new prosthetic limbs or trying to get back to work or adapt their homes to meet their new needs.  So very many stories, and the coming months will be both a celebration and solemn reminder, as will Marathon weekend.

It's a crazy whirlwind.  Happy and sad and inspired and overwhelmed and angry and excited and nervous and determined.  Those feelings drive me to go.  It's what pushes me out the door when it is 14 degrees.  It's how I get excited to go for a long run in week 15 of 18 when sleeping late and going out for breakfast seems like a much better alternative.  It's how I find peace when the snow is falling and wind is blowing.  It's how I process.  It's what we do 18 weeks before the marathon.

My goal this year is to raise $26,200.  $1000 per mile.  And I ask for your support again this year because the race isn't finished.  These dollars are making a difference as researchers work to find effective treatments for cancer, but there are miles to go.  Please consider a gift to DFMC this holiday season as we kick-off training and run as a team towards a cure.

To make a gift online, please visit:
www.runDFMC.org/2014/jennie

Over the next 18 weeks, please keep us tucked away in your thoughts:  the DFMC team, those affected by the tragic events at the finish line of the 2013 marathon, everyone training for the marathon, and all of those who face difficult milestones and holidays in the coming months because cancer has found a way into their lives.  Your support is appreciated.

Be good.  Be strong.

With gratitude,
Jennie

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Giving Thanks and Giving Back



It’s that time of year again.  The leaves are almost off of the trees at our house, and the holidays are creeping up on us.   The days feel short as the sun sinks long before we are used to watching it disappear.  Prior to six years ago, it would be the time of year that I settle in for my winter hibernation but instead, I begin mapping out my training plan for the Boston Marathon in 5 months and start thinking about the upcoming Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge season.   After the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon and the tragedy that played out on Boylston near the finish line, this has been an “off-season” unlike other years.  We’ve been witness to many selfless acts and stories of inspiration, and seen communities join together in support and fellowship for those forever affected by the marathon bombings in April.  The coming training season and the marathon that will be held on April 21, 2014 will also be unlike other years.   It will be a time of unity and solidarity among the running community, and within that, it will also be a celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC).   The  kind of solidarity we have seen since April is what has driven the DFMC team since its inception 25 years ago.  Each in our own way, all of the team members have been inspired by a terrible disease, and by the people that we love and care for that have fought with perseverance, immense strength, humor, and grace.   

Each of the past five years, the support that has been shown to my participation on the DFMC team has been incredibly generous and frankly, quite remarkable.  I began running in 2009 after my sister, Molly, died as a result of brain cancer.  And then, in less than three years’ time (which felt like both an eternity and a flash), my brother, John, and my sister, Mary, also passed away from cancer.  They were all in the 30s, all with so much living left to do.  Our family and their friends had plans and hopes that included them and all of our lives were irrevocably changed by their diagnosis and subsequent deaths.   The reality is too many people are getting diagnosed every day:  one of my first friends in Massachusetts; our friend, Danny; my friend’s dad; another friend’s mom.  It is just too many people. There is still much work to be done and that is why I became a member of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team and haven’t looked back.  After John was first diagnosed, I began looking for a way to give back, a platform for change.  I needed something to believe in, a cause that was making a difference, that I could see and understand.  And I found that with DFMC.  The DFMC team is composed not just of the runners, but their families and friends who support them, researchers, volunteers, the survivors, and all those in whose memory we run.  I certainly can’t find a cure on my own, and that is why I come back to this team, and why I write to you this year. 
  
The DFMC team raises funds for the Barr Program in Innovative Cancer Research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.  Dana-Farber is one of the top 5 cancer institutes in the country, and the Barr Program is a leading research program that funds the brightest scientists making basic research discoveries that are transforming cancer treatment.  These breakthroughs are resulting in improved survival rates and quality of life for thousands of patients everywhere.   100%...every single little penny…of your gift will go directly to the researchers.  To fund cutting edge studies. To find new and effective treatments.  To search for a cure.  This year, our team goal is $5.3 million dollars, and my personal goal is $26,200, which is $1000 per mile of a marathon.  I would be so grateful for your generosity and support to help me reach my goal this year.

Making an online gift is easy.  You can visit my webpage at http://www.runDFMC.org/2014/jennie to make a contribution.  If you would prefer, you can also send a check payable to the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge to me at: Jennie Sheridan, 23 Glendale Rd., Marblehead, MA  01945.  It is because of the unfailing generosity of so many of you over the past years that I am able to once again lace up my shoes and run in honor of all of our family and friends who have been diagnosed with cancer.  Please let me know if there is someone for whom you would like me to run.  I wear the names of our family and friends on my shirt on the road from Hopkinton to Boston each year, and while sadly the list continues to grow, it is for all them that I run. 

As I close this out, I wanted to share something I wrote this summer that rings true for not just this marathon but for almost every day I step into my running shoes.  The question, “Why do you run?” was posed by the organizers of the NYC Marathon (a race I was supposed to run but couldn’t due to injury.  With Thanksgiving upon us, I find myself incredibly grateful to be able to run and the platform for which it has allowed me to give back:
“I am inspired to run by many things. I started running marathons five years ago in support of my three siblings who had been diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, I now run in their memories as within three years, all of them lost their lives to cancer. I think that throughout the 11 years, from my brother's first diagnosis of a brain tumor in 2000 to the day of my second sister's funeral in 2011, running has saved me. In the many years of illness, treatment, and occasional remissions; and those that have followed their deaths, running has provided me an outlet to process pain and sadness, to clear my head and think through decisions, to cry, to remember, to laugh. Running keeps me healthy in mind and in body. Through running, I have realized how important exercise is to overall well being, and I know that enduring what our family has been through would have been significantly more difficult for me without being able to throw on my shoes and head out the door. Cancer doesn't just affect those who are diagnosed: It changes the world for anyone that is part of that life. So, I run for my parents, who endured and survived much more than a thousand marathons as they supported and cared for my siblings throughout their illnesses. I run for my one living sister, who is my best friend, and I am so thankful that over the past couple of years we've had the opportunity to log a few running miles together. I run for my husband, who provides unending support and understanding. I run for my three kids to show them to set goals, and follow through on the work and commitment to achieve them. And to not give up, even when life takes some really unexpected turns. I run for so many family members and friends that continue to provide our family with laughter, love, meals, rides, overnight stays, emails and letters, prayers, and care without conditions. And I run for me. Because being able to run, and the peace and wellness that I feel when I am on the road, it has saved me."
I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this team, to help lead us to a world without cancer.  My sincerest thanks for your kindness and generosity.  It means a great deal to my family, and we are all so grateful for your support over the years.   Please feel free to share our mission with anyone you feel might be interested, and don't forget to follow along on this blog.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Be good.  Be strong.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Just too much


Back on April 14, as we gathered as a team of runners at the DFMC Pasta Party, one of our team members spoke not just as a runner, but as a researcher and recipient of the funds that are raised for the Barr Program.  Dr. David Weinstock was filled with the excitement of running the Boston Marathon, but also was acutely aware of what brought most of the 1500 people in that room together that day.  Cancer had infiltrated our lives.  And he asked, "Why do we want to cure cancer?" and his answer is an one that I have been thinking a lot about over the past few weeks as our friends have experienced losses as a result of cancer:

"Well, my complicated and personal answer is that we don't want to lose what cancer takes away from us.  It takes away friends and loved ones, as so many of you know.  

But that's not all.  Because in a way, it takes the rest of us, too.  Because the moment you feel a lump in your breast or you get the results of a CAT scan that shows a new mass or you even answer the phone and it's a distressed loved one who is calling to tell you they have cancer, the person you were before that moment ceases to exist.  

You become another person with a different life, and the person you were is lost. And that is way too much for cancer to take away."

It IS too much.  Way, way too much and this morning I was again reminded of just how beyond the limits of acceptable it is.  Our community gathered for the funeral of a friend, Danny, whose life was cut short because of cancer.  Danny's wife, Kathy, and their two children, Harry and Nathalie, held hands today, and were brave and strong and sorrowful as they had to say goodbye to someone they love so deeply.  

And it was too much a few weeks back when another friend sat by her mother's side for over a week under hospice care as cancer slowly took her life.  The uncertainty and anxiety of sitting and waiting for the inevitable outcome, all the while trying to be positive and supportive.

And honestly, these sorts of days are too much for me.  It feels like too much to be witness to such sorrow, knowing that there is a sadness they are feeling that is really beyond words.  The empathy and heartbreak I feel for their families and close friends is so very real.  It is too much to know the pain of saying good bye and walking away from someone for the very last time.

It is just too much.

But what is also too much is the immense awe I felt as Danny's kids, at ages 11 and 9, stood up today and spoke their very meaningful, simple, and truthful words about their dad.

And the humor felt in the sharing of funny stories, and the joy in having someone to laugh with which may immediately be followed by tears.

And the comfort I feel knowing how generous and kind a community of friends surrounds both of these families to help them through the coming weeks and months.

And the gratitude in knowing that in difficult times of need and loss is when we most feel the support of those with whom we share friendship and love.

And the sense of purpose that has been drawn from from the quiet, humble resilience of all those who have been through the grueling cancer treatments.  This very purpose that leads Roberta's Rebels to walk in the upcoming North Shore CancerWalk, or fund research in honor of Danny.

And the true inspiration that is derived from the strength and fortitude of those we love, to help others and to create change.

We are different people today for having known this sorrow and felt this grief.  And we are different for also having been witness to such generosity of spirit and overwhelming kindness.  It's a roller coaster of emotions with many highs and lows, but on days like these, it just all feels like too much.

Rest in peace, Danny.

Be good.  Be strong.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Our collective spirit

Yesterday started much like other mornings when I have set out to run the Boston Marathon.  A little breakfast.  Last check of my gear bag.  A ride to the bus to Hopkinton.

The DFMC team gathers together at a church in Hopkinton, a final celebratory gathering before heading to the corrals for the start of the marathon.  We gave Dennis a big send-off as he prepared to participate in the hand-cycle portion of the race.  We gathered for our team picture.  We proudly applauded our "Living Proof" teammates...cancer survivors out there to cover the 26.2 in an effort to end cancer.  We shared hugs and nervous chatter in the line for the port-a-potties.  We signed banners for patients.  We got ourselves ready to go...ready to revel in the day that we all worked so hard to reach.

The race went as most do.  Some miles felt good...others were tough.  I struggled in the hills, but just kept telling myself to keep moving.  I got high-fives and smiles from my family and friends in Newton.  I missed some other friends along the way, but knowing they were out there kept me motivated and moving.  Cheers of "'Noog" in reference to my hometown of Chattanooga from friends made me smile as I shuffled up Heartbreak Hill.  The mobility impaired runners, the soldiers, the wheelchair athletes, the Hoyts, the everyday heroes...they were all out there running their race...not giving up and pushing themselves each and every mile.   I really worked to keep running to get to Mile 25 where the DFMC patient partners were, especially Team Matty who has held a special place in my heart over the last two seasons.  I knew if I could get there running, I would finish. Motivated by these young heroic patients and families, I started on the final 1.2 miles.

As I rounded the corner from Hereford to Boylston, I heard my husband and sister calling my name.  I wasn't sure if my family would be there but I was excited to catch a glimpse of them as I made the turn.  Sometimes the traffic is too difficult to make it from Newton, but I was glad to see the two of them although I couldn't tell if anyone else was there.

I shuffled toward the finish line, taking in the cheers of the crowd that were 7 or 8 deep along both sides of the street.  And finish, I did.  In fact, I had one of my best runs.  But it doesn't matter.  Finishing no longer matters.  Things changed quickly as I moved through the finishing area.

As I waited to get my bag, there was a loud boom.  Fireworks?  Never heard those before at the finish.  A cannon?  Seems odd in the middle of the city but maybe in honor of Patriots Day.  Some nearby officers said shots fired, but it was too big a noise for that.  Gas explosion?  Could have been...I hope everyone is okay.  And then another.

So many of us wandered about in a state of confusion, but there was not an immediate sense of urgency yet.  I started to move towards the runner exit and when I glanced up Boylston St. to my right as I was moving along, I knew something was very wrong but I didn't know what it was.  Police officers, medics, volunteers...they were all running and driving towards the Finish line.  Now it was urgent and people were beginning to panic. 

I made my way out and found a DFMC volunteer to walk back to our meeting place with me.  I had been calling and texting my husband and sister.  Are you okay?  Where are you?  What happened?  No response.  I tried to call my parents.  No service.  I was frantic.  As we were walking, we still had no idea what happened but hoped for the best.

After what felt like an eternity, I received a text my from husband asking where I was, and although I couldn't respond, I knew they were okay.  I didn't know where they were and I didn't know if my parents and kids were also in town.   And we still had no idea what had happened.

As we made it back to the Marriott (the DFMC meeting area), the news was reporting two explosions at the marathon finish line.  There were a lot of injuries.  I came up the escalator to find our friends filled with fear and overwhelmed by the events.  They had been waiting on Boylston to watch their mother (my friend) finish and the explosions went off to their right and to their left.  Three young boys, their dad, and their grandmother.  It was heartbreaking to see the trauma in their eyes, and just knowing their mom was safe was not enough.  They needed to see her and hug her.

As we waited, my sister and Andrew made it to the Marriott a few minutes later with my cousin who had been watching the race with them in Newton and met up with them again in Boston.  I was so relieved to have them in my sights, and was thankful to know the kids were not in the city for the finish.

I was finally able to call my parents using my friend's phone and reached my dad.  They had taken my kids back home and were coming home from getting ice cream, unaware of the events in Boston.  I didn't have cell phone numbers of other friends to try to send text messages to see if they were okay.  There were two other women from our town on the DFMC team, and other friends running for other charities but I had no way to get in touch with them.  They hadn't checked in with Dana-Farber, and we couldn't get online to check the tracking system.  My phone was filled with messages but I couldn't respond, and I couldn't ask if anyone had heard from them or from their families who were supposed to be at the finish.

At the Marriott, the DFMC sets up a runners refuge for after the marathon. We have space to get changed and get something to eat and a massage.  It's a place that is normally filled with high-fives and a lot of hugs and laughter.  It's a time that is usually spent with our DFMC teammates cheering the finishers and celebrating together, but yesterday was a somber gathering in front of the news wondering if everyone was okay.  On a normal marathon day, a steady stream of DFMC finishers makes their way to the refuge, but the runners stopped coming in....they weren't finishing and were were directed off course.  There was no immediate way to find out where everyone was.  We got changed and I was trying to quickly get something to drink and eat when volunteers came running in to tell us the hotel was being evacuated.

We were shuttled through the attached mall which had already been shut down and evacuated.  All of the stores were dark and closed up.  There were policemen with bomb-sniffing dogs making their way through and no one was being allowed in.  We were only allowed out one exit. 

Thankfully, my cousin lives in the South End so we started walking towards her house.  There were people everywhere.  Runners in the wrapped in their mylar blankets trying to stay warm.  Families looking for familiy members.  Sirens all around.  Helicopters overhead.  It was surreal.  Reports of more explosives.  Building lockdowns.  Evacuations.  And people were talking about bombs.

On our way, we bumped into our friends who had tried to get to their car but were sent away from teh parking garage.  The same family who had seen the explosions.  They walked with us to my cousins where we tried to piece together what was happening and reach out to our families and friends to let them know we were okay, and were able to find out about our other friends who we were concerned about.  As far as we could tell, everyone was safe.

About 3 hours after we finished, we were able to get our car from the garage where it was parked.  Our friends had to leave their car since the garage exit was still shutdown.  We all made it home, still in shock, happy to be together, happy to be safe, shaken, grateful, sad, confused, grieving.

We sat in disbelief as we watched news coverage of the days events.  Stunned disbelief and utter confusion about why and how this happened.

When I get up the morning after the marathon, it is usually a time to look back with excitement.  I usually sit back with a cup of coffee and watch the recorded TV coverage of the elite runners.  I download photos and read race reports from teammates and friends. 

But not today.  Today, I woke with a very deep sadness of the lives that were lost.  The unknown.  The "what-ifs" from yesterday.  I felt pride in this community this morning...the city of Boston and the surrounding areas, the larger running community, the friends and family who reached out in concern. 

There were volunteers and medical staff that ran towards the explosions.  There were runners who went directly to hospitals to give blood after they were stopped on the course.  Strangers were giving cold and tired runners food, money, cell phones, a place to sleep, a ride.  People joined together.

The spectators that line the Boston Marathon course are a huge part of what makes this race what it is.  Runners gladly take water, oranges, candy, beer from strangers along the course, and there is no doubt that the what they are offering is not tainted.  The is a trust between runners and the crowd.   They make hilarious signs.  They dress up.  They play music.  They scream your name, your number, your charity.  They give you hugs, high-fives.  They make you go.  All 26.2 miles.  Runners expect the sore legs, the black toenails, the exhaustion.  We ask for it.  These fans, they just go out to make the runners feel better.   The people that were injured yesterday were fans.  Spectators.  Family members and friends.  Children.  The timing was of these explosions was intended for everyday people out supporting one of the signature events in this area.

We found out today that a friends' daughter was injured in the second blast.  She is a college student in Boston and was walking into the Apple store.  She is going to be okay, and was released from the hospital today.  And sadly, if it is even okay to say, she's one of the "lucky" ones. She will recover, at least physically.  Emotionally, this will take a toll on everyone.  And I can not stop thinking about the young boy who gave his dad a hug as he finished and then walked back to where the explosion went off.  Young Martin represents the children of so very many of the runners who ran yesterday, and who treasured the kisses and hugs of their children kids so much more deeply today.  So many lives will never ever be the same, and there are many obstacles and a lot of healing to be done.  I hope our community that has rallied so much in the last 24-hours fights on for these people over the very long road, and lets them know that they are not alone.

As runners for charity programs, we have strong resolve to create and foster change.  We are all out there for a reason, driven by personal experiences.  To fight back, to give back, and to persevere. We were the third wave runners making our way across or towards the finish line when these explosions went off.  At the Dana-Farber pasta party on Sunday, the Boston Marathon race director stopped by to share his thoughts with us. Dave McGillivray believes in giving back.  He began the charity program with the BAA, and he reminded us of the importance of the work we were doing by raising funds through running.  He implored us to keep going. 

And we will.  I can't fully wrap my head around what happened yesterday.  There are too many what-ifs and too many tragic ends to what began as a beautiful day.  There were thousands of people out there representing months of hard work, from 50 states and even more countries.  Runners are a tight group.  The large majority of us were not racing each other.  We were not out there to win.  We were trying to carry each other across 26.2 miles.  Helping each other beyond the finish line.  Uniting in trying to achieve a common goal.

I am shaken, but I am not deterred.  The reason I run is too important, too necessary.  This team has done so much good and we provide hope.  The reason why we run has not changed, nor has the end result of $4.6 million dollars for necessary cancer research.  That can not be taken away or altered.  We can not let yesterday's events detract from what we've accomplished, and what we still have to do.  Our collective spirit is much, much bigger than that. 

The number of text messages, email, phone calls, and house visits that we have all received since 2:50 p.m. yesterday has been moving and overwhelming and emotional.  I am blessed and thankful for my friends and for my family, and for your compassion and concern.  Never in a million years did I dream that such a beautiful and special event for our family could turn into something so gravely disturbing and heartbreaking.  Thank you for sharing the love with us all.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Keep Calm

I never thought I'd be writing this post 5 years later.  I never imagined the turns that life would take that would bring me to this day, two days out from running the Boston Marathon for the fifth time in Memory of Molly, Mary, and John.   

In Memory.  Those words knock me down every time.

As the marathon gets closer, I get more emotional and spend a lot of time thinking back about the people, the experience, the miles.  People ask a lot what I think about when I run.  I don't usually run with music, so my train of thought is kind of all over the place when out on the roads for an hour or three at a time.  I make "to-do" lists, negotiate with myself, solve all kinds of problems, try to not think about how much further or if something hurts, enjoy the scenery, and very often think of the many, many reasons I am out there running.  I jump from one thing to another from minute to minute, mile to mile.  My thinking in the days leading up to the marathon has been very similar to when I am out running....all over the place. I've been jotting down notes about what I wanted to say in one last post before the start, and there is so much....so in the same vein as when I am running...here's a kind of train of thought rambling (and I mean rambling) reflection.....

I am going to start and finish by saying thank you.  Thank you, thank you.

I would not be running for the fifth year if it was not for the support of so very many people, from so many different times in my life and many whom I have never met.  My kindergarten teacher.  My kids' kindergarten teacher.  College roommates. Friends of Molly, Mary and John.  Kids who I have coached.  My soccer teammates from U12 up through high school.  My husbands' family.  DFMC teammates.  My parents' grade school and high school classmates.  Friends of friends of friends.  The amazing Ride for Life ladies of Chattanooga.  Gina B who ran and garnered support.  March Madness pool participants.  Neighbors.  Friends.  Family.  Over 400 different people have contributed over the five years.  400 people who know the impact of cancer.  It's humbling and I am honored and constantly overwhelmed by it.

I started out 5 years ago with a goal of around $8000.  I was afraid of that number, and wasn't sure I was going to get there but I thought I would give it a try.  I had good reason to give it a try, and went past it that year, and every year since.  As a matter of fact, as of today "Team Jennie" has raised over $150,000 for innovative cancer research at Dana-Farber.  $150,000.  This money is making a difference and it is because together, we have collectively made gifts to these amazing researchers who are using these funds to bring us to a world where cancer is not taking lives.  I can't write a check for $150,000 but I can run and I can ask for help, and I am so thankful that it has been given so generously.

We have a group of team members affectionately recognized as "Living Proof."  They are cancer survivors who run the marathon.  As we gather marathon morning for a team picture, these heroes among us are gathered for a picture and it brings me to tears as they are surrounded by a sea of applause from their teammates who are honored to be lining up beside them.


On my singlet, I wear the names of over 150 of your family members and friends who have been diagnosed with cancer.  Some are "in honor" and many are "in memory" and all are meaningful and important and I think it makes my legs feel a little lighter over the miles.  Thank you for sharing your stories with me...I do think about you and about these amazing people who cross the finish line with me.

People need to put their shopping carts back when they are finished with them.  This drives me crazy.  Don't leave them in the middle of the parking lot, please.

Once you get moving when it is 20 degrees outside, it isn't so bad if you are dressed correctly.  Don't get me wrong...I don't like it, but I never, ever, ever thought you would catch me running outside when the temperature was below freezing but I've made it through 5 winters with only a little bit of complaining.  Okay, maybe a lot.  But it really isn't too bad.

I am so thankful for all of the kindness and the generosity that has been shown, but in all honesty, I am do not at all like the reasons that brought me to this place...to run to fund cancer research in memory of my young and fantastic sisters and brother.  My family got knocked down by this disease, but we are not going to be beaten by it.

On average, I run about 500 miles during each training season.  Probably easier to take the train.

As we were heading out for our last long run last weekend, many people were gathering at a local church for the funeral of a young mother in town who lost her life to cancer.  I did not know her, but know many that were her friend.  Any relief or excitement felt after finishing that last long run was tempered by the mourners exiting the church, a vivid reminder of exactly what that last long run, and every training run, was for.  I saw a friend who had been at the funeral right after we finished running, and she said to "go kick cancer ass."  That's what we're doing.  I just don't want any reminders like that.  It's too much.

Don't get a puppy in the middle of winter.

I should have started doing this when I was younger.  I am impressed by the college students and recent college graduates that are members of this team.  When I was that age (throughout my 20s), my exercise was mostly throwing darts and walking home from a bar.  I was an expert napper.  At this age, training gives me an excuse to go to bed at 8:30 (which I often do even when I am not training), but I kind of think there wouldn't be so many body parts screaming at me after the long runs.


I don't feel very comfortable asking for donations, and hitting the "send" or "post" button before sending out my fundraising letter or making a post on Facebook always causes me to pause.  But what I always come back to is how important this is and that the funds aren't going to me.  It all goes to for cancer research, and that makes it much easier.  Given the number of times I post, you must be chuckling but it's the truth.  It is outside of my comfort zone, but we are the advertisers of this research program and you aren't inundated with TV ads or commercials...a few emails and Facebook posts aren't too much when we are helping to cure cancer!

PLEASE don't run/walk with traffic.  Run on the opposite side of the road FACING traffic.  It's so much safer.  The one downside to running on that side....never trust that people who are coming up to an intersection to make a right hand turn are going to look right, which is where you are running.  They are often looking to the left to check for oncoming traffic, and not for pedestrians coming from the right.  Almost been hit many, many times.

The DFMC team has a fantastic support network with each other, but we also have incredible and dedicated staff members, volunteers, and a coach who help out throughout the season. They make this so much easier for us...and they make us feel like stars in the process when they are digging in and doing so much work behind the scenes to make this crew successful.  THANK YOU for the encouraging messages, the water stops, the cheering sections, the cookies, the well-organized information, emails, training plans, answers, etc.  Our team goal is $4.6 million dollars this year, and we are well on our way.

Say "hello" or "good morning" or just give a smile or a little wave to people you pass when out walking or running.  Don't put your head down and avoid eye contact.  It's a buzz kill.

Maybe I am naive, but throughout the years of treatment and surgery and relapses that Molly, Mary and John went through, I always had hope.  Hope that that one new drug would work.  Hope that surgery would successfully remove all signs of cancer.  Hope that the next best thing was around the corner.  It helps you get out of bed in the morning...feeling like there is something better.  If you don't have that, what do you have?  I still have hope.  For my parents.  For my kids.  For my friends.  For all of us.  That is what keeps me running.

I got a wonderful opportunity to go in a talk to three third grade classes yesterday about the marathon and training.  One of the classes had started their own challenge to collectively walk or run a marathon during a few minutes of recess each day.  Over two weeks, they completed almost 9 marathons, and their enthusiasm and excitement really was contagious.  They were a clear reminder of what can be fun about running, and how lucky I am to be able to use something that is so good for me mentally and physically to do something important to help others.

Without my family, I would not be who I am today.  I have tried many times to explain in words what my parents mean to me, and how despite everything they have been through, they still find time to laugh.  They find time for others.  They find time to support me.  They created a family where each of us never stops believing in the other, and they did so by setting a strong example of kindness and strength and fun and respect.  My sister, Katy, and I are sticking together more than ever.  There is a part of who we are that is forever missing, and our adult lives are forever changed because of the absence of Molly, Mary and John.  Our plans are altered, but we have each others back.  We all always did, and always will.

My husband and kids keep believing.  They are my biggest supporters and looking for those faces at Mile 18 keeps me plugging along.  My children learned a lot of hard lessons at a very young age because of cancer, and they learned that life isn't fair.  But we have to keep moving forward.  And have dance parties.  And celebrate their aunts and uncles, and the legacy they left for them and for their cousins.  It takes a lot of time away from the house to train each season, and I am blessed to have the understanding of this crew every time I head out the door.  And when I need a nap after I come back in.

So, THANK YOU.  Those words are not big enough to encompass the gratitude I feel for all of the support that has been shown to me, my family, and this cause.  This result of $150,000 is not for me, nor by me.  It is for all of us, and it has been done by all of us...we as a team have reached this amazing result.  I'll be thinking of this tribe of cancer ass-kicking people who have carried me to today, and to Monday, and through each of the days from the beginning of this journey until now.

Be Good.  Be Strong.

With so much gratitude and hope,
Jennie

Monday, April 8, 2013

Yard Sale

Last fall, our neighbors moved from their house after living there for about 40 years.  They had finally realized the house had become too much to care for and they moved to an assisted living facility so they could take care of themselves, and each other, without all of the daily stress that comes with taking care of the house.  It was a tough decision and a tough move, but probably the right one.

Their daughter came and stayed with them for 3 months to help them sort through 40 years of "stuff" that had found a permanent spot in their house.  Books, dishes, clothes, letters, photos, lightbulbs, furniture, trinkets and keepsakes, paperwork...you name it, I think they had one of them tucked away in a drawer or in the attic.  It's the stuff that surrounds most of us....pieces of our past that provides us comfort, things we think we need, or papers we feel we have to keep.  Put it in a file, stuff a box in the attic, throw it in the garage.  And let it sit for someday.


As happened with our neighbors, the time comes, whether it be necessary or just by choice, that we have to make a move and it forces us to start to digging through what has accumulated and figure out what really matters...what we really need.  It's an emotional journey, deciding what you can't live without and what you've been hanging onto because you feel you should or because maybe you think it is important to someone else that you have it.  And the stuff that needs to go...it get laid out in the driveway for a yard sale, put in a big black bag for the dump, or even placed by the side of the road with a "free" sign available to the first willing passerby. 


When we moved 7 or 8 years ago, in order to get the house ready to show, we boxed up a lot of stuff to put in storage until the move was to take place.  The house "showed better" with clear counters and empty closets...bigger, brighter, better.  We also made some easy fixes to things in the house that made a huge difference....fixes that we had just let slide because after a while, you settle in and stop seeing the little imperfections like the door that needed a coat of paint, the hole that could use some spackle, or the jiggly doorknob that needed a quick tightening.  Until you take the time to look around you with a fresh set of eyes, you just live with the undone, unfinished little things.   When you see things every day, you get used to them, but when you are preparing for a move, we are forced to take a step back and pay closer attention to things that need a little work. And the fixes are made, but we do it for the potential buyers and not for ourselves.  How often do you hear people lament that they waited so long to make improvements and that they wished they had done those things for themselves when they were living there?


Why do we wait for a move or a big life changing event to make these changes?  Why not take a step back today...see what needs to be cleared out or repaired and make those changes for ourselves and not for the next owners or tenants.  Keep the things we need and bag the things we don't.  We so often let our lives get cluttered with junk instead of just figuring out what is important.  On a regular basis, we need to take the time to reassess and set priorities...remember what is valuable.

Mind you, I write this surrounded by a few piles of paper, 123 pencils that we might need someday, 8 books I might read again sometime, a few zillion magazines with pictures I may someday need to refer to, plus a few mixed tapes from college that I have kept despite not having a cassette player in the house.  It's a hard to take an honest look at the luggage we carry from place to place,  and to weed out the extraneous stuff.  But by taking the time to step back and be reminded of our priorities and what makes us happier, it can certainly make things brighter and bigger and more comfortable...and we all "show better" as a result!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Stormy weather

Well, I guess I am not fully unstuck when it comes to posting here.  My intentions are strong.  My brain is full of things I want to say.  My desire to use this as a means to raise awareness and funds to help find a cure and better treatments for cancer has not become any less.  I just can't get things to come out quite how I want.


I can (and often do )blame the seasons as I make no secret of the fact that my winter is not my favorite time of year.  I like a (single) good snowstorm for some sledding and snowman building, but then I’d be happy to see the low temperatures and surrounding snow disappear.  It's dark at 4 pm and I anxiously look forward to longer days and the sun shining a little higher in the sky.

We got hit with one pretty big storm in January, and it took about a month for the snow to finally melt enough to see the grass and be able to safely walk/run on the sidewalk and streets.  Last year, we had only 9 inches of snow all winter and this year, we are at 55 inches.  A significant change, for sure.  Last week, we could safely take a walk around the block again as the sidewalks were clear and the snow was no more.  The calendar turned to March  which as the local weather-people gladly explain is the end to the meteorological winter, and we all start looking towards brighter spring days.  And then boom, another storm.  Unexpected.  Tougher than anticipated.  And we pedal back away from spring and right smack into the dead of winter again.

Aside from (and in addition to) the gloomy weather, this time of year is difficult, filled with remembrance and a great deal of loss.  We work to get through one tough day and get our feet back under us when another difficult day is again upon us...like we are stuck in a bad weather pattern when the jet stream keeps pushing storms through.
February 7.  2 years since Mary died.  There is a picture of Mary laughing on her 35th birthday just 3 months before that is so full of hope and happiness.  She had been through so much the prior 6 months and was making plans beyond just “tomorrow.”  

February 25.  5 years have passed since Molly died, which all at once feel like an instant and a lifetime.  There is much sadder and deeper loss that has extended from that day that comes barreling down. 
Then March 10.  John’s 36th birthday.  He was a just a kid when diagnosed, and in the grand scheme of things, a kid when stupid cancer robbed him of this birthday and others.



And in another 2 weeks and it will be March 24, and Molly’s 42nd birthday.  And a few weeks after that it will then be May 16 when we’ll sadly remember 4 years prior when John passed away. Some of these days it's hard to catch your breath.  If you stop and think too much...or look at their pictures too closely or too deeply....it's a blizzard of emotion.  As with the long winter, we hunker down and surround ourselves with comfort....good friends, happy memories, maybe a little ice cream....and we ride it out and wait for brighter days.

I think of Molly, Mary and John every day, multiple times over the course of the day, sometimes with tears, others with a smile and a laugh. But these "remembering" day, they just weigh heavier like the late winter snow.

Be Good.  Be Strong.

Please visit www.runDFMC.org/2013/jennies to make a gift to the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge in memory of Molly, Mary, and John or someone you love that has been diagnosed with cancer.  100% of your gift will be placed in the hands of amazing researchers at one of the top cancer institutes in our country.  Any amount is helpful, and all support is appreciated.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

DFMC, Week 7

I have been feeling totally stuck when it comes to sitting and writing new posts for this blog.  My thoughts are in a bunch of different places, and the feelings or meaning that I have been hoping to get down has not really been coming through in words.  There are scribbles and notes written all over the place in notebooks and on scraps of paper, but I am still working on getting things organized to put down in writing. 

While I sort through all of that, what I can write about and what is easier for me to manage is marathon training.  I know what the plan is.  It's all written out...18 weeks, 7 days a week.  I wake up in the morning understanding what I need to do, and I know how to adapt and alter if something forces a change (like the 5 degree temperatures here this morning).  I've got a goal and the timeframe to get there, which creates some accountability, too.  I know at the end of the 18 weeks, I am going to run a marathon and I want to run it well so I follow the plan in order to get there in the best condition that I am able.  Easy enough (most days).

Similarly, I am able to approach the challenge of running for Dana-Farber in much the same way.  I have a set a personal fundraising goal ($28,000) and have a time period in which to reach that goal (April 15).  I know the steps I need to take to get there, too.  With just over 10 weeks to go, I am a little shy of halfway to my goal with $11,400 in generous gifts contributed already, which is humbling and an incredibly fantastic start.  The reason that I run is what makes training season so worthwhile and rewarding, and again, I am so grateful to all who have supported to this amazing program so far.

We have a DFMC team meeting tonight and I have the opportunity to be a part of a panel to talk to our teammates about my experiences as a member of the team, and what has helped me to reach the goals that I have set over the past 4 seasons.  In looking back at the past 4 years, the biggest factor in the the success I have had as a member of  the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team has been just how many people have supported the DFMC and of our family.  It isn't that there are 5 people that make a huge donation every year to reach the goal.  It's that there are almost 400  people who have given what they can to help fight cancer.   400 different people...some are family, many are friends, others are friends of friends, and still others are complete strangers who somehow heard of our "Be Good. Be Strong. cancer-fighting, take no prisoners village" and have shown their support by making a gift.

And that is what keeps me going.  All of these hundreds of people that have been a part of what is most certainly a team effort have their own personal reason for joining us in this fight.  Maybe that reason is that you are my friend, or that you went to college with Molly, or loved Widespread Panic like John, or rafted the rivers in Montana with Mary.  Or maybe it is because your mother or grandfather or child was diagnosed with cancer.  Or maybe it's for you.  There are too many reasons.  But together, we are being heard, and we are funding research that is making life-changing advances.  And we are doing this so there will be fewer reasons to run.

I'll be out running 16 miles this weekend, which will hopefully be an excellent opportunity to organize my thoughts and locate my writing voice.  I haven't, however, lost the voice that is asking you to support the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, though.  Please consider a gift to support the research being conducted...and in the words of this great DFMC program, to help reach the ultimate finish line.  A world without cancer.

To donate, please visit:

www.runDFMC.org/2013/jennies

Be good. Be strong.

With gratitude,
Jennie