I opened this email today and I was so moved I just had to share it with all of you. Yup, the tears were a flowing. You might want to get a tissue.
I read your blog everyday and I love it. I think it is amazing how dedicated you are to being healthy, both mentally and physically. I also try hard to eat right, exercise and feel happy in my life. I know you are training (and almost ready for) your first half marathon and that you have been reading other people’s stories about their first marathon or half marathon and I want to tell you about my first half marathon experience. :)
In August of last year I was diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer know as Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). Learning that I had cancer at 23 was a huge shock for me, especially since I have always worked hard to take care of my body. I was lucky that my CML was caught early on a random blood test and it can be treated with a daily pill called Gleevec. I have been on Gleevec for almost a year now and I am doing great. Gleevec is a revolutionary new kind of cancer treatment and I am incredibly lucky to be able to take a pill everyday to keep my cancer under control. However, Gleevec is not a cure and because the drug is new there is no research on the long term effectiveness or long term side effects. I try not to think about this and instead I think about this statistic… In 1987 the survival rate for CML was 55%, today it is 95%. Amazing!! Everyday I think about how lucky I am.
As soon as I found out that I was going to be okay I knew I wanted to get involved and help The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I volunteered at a couple of events and then my boyfriend and I decided we were going to run in the Vancouver Half Marathon with Team In Training (a sports training program which raises money for LLS). I started my training in December and I will never forget my first run. It was only 4kms but my hemoglobin was so low and my muscles were so sore (side effects of Gleevec) that 4kms felt like forever. It took me 34 minutes and by the end I was in tears. I was lucky to have an amazing encouraging coach and an awesome boyfriend by my side. I though about quitting after that run but I knew I couldn’t. So every Sunday morning for the next few months we met our team for a 8:00am run in downtown Vancouver. We ran in the rain and the snow and every kilometer was hard. The runs we did during the week were not much easier. But I knew I had to keep going, I was lucky to be alive and even luckier to be able to do this. Despite some training setbacks we ran the half marathon on May 3, 2009 and it was the best day of my life. My sister, my boyfriend and my good friend ran with me and together we raised over $13,000 for LLS. It took us almost 3 hours, but I knew time was not important to me in the race, the most important thing was crossing the finish line. And crossing the finish line was one of the best moments of my life. I attached a picture of us with our medals at the finish line (I am on the left)! Next year my boyfriend and I will run in the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco with Team In Training. I cannot wait.
Team In Training is a great program for marathons and half marathons, if you would more information here is there website. www.teamintraining.ca
I also read your post about organ donation and I think it is great that you are now an organ donor! I am too! I don’t know if you have heard of bone marrow/stem cell donation? OneMatch is the national bone marrow and stem cell donation program in Canada and it is great program. Without Gleevec I would have been looking to this registry to find a compatible bone marrow match (unfortunately neither of my sisters are a match) and I would have relied on this for a transplant. Many people with other types of leukemia still require bone marrow / stem cell transplants. If you would like more information about this please check out their website www.onematch.ca.
Thank you for your blog! It definitely helps me to stay positive and healthy!
Thank you Melissa for your email. Thank you for being such a huge inspiration to all of us. I’m so proud of you and so touched by your story. I am definitely going to check out both Team In Training and One Match.
I started racing as a way to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. All of the money I have raised (approx $3,200) has been donated in honour of a family friend named Chris who passed away to cancer in 2008 and anyone whose lives have been touched by cancer in some way. I have also worked with cancer researchers and I know how crucial funding is for their research to even happen. Not one training run or race goes by that I do not think about why I am running and I thank my lucky stars that I am able to do so.
I used to take so much for granted in my life, but with each passing day I try to work on that more and more. Stories like Melissa’s remind us how truly lucky we are and that anything is possible when you set your mind to it.
What inspires you? Do you have any people in your life that serve as role models?