Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Inspiration to run: my mom's story.

The following was written by my mom, Beth.

For some time, Emilie had been blogging about the exhilaration of running.  I was skeptical.  Exhilaration?  But my curiosity was piqued and I made a mental note that maybe I should give it a try.  Someday.

Then the next chapter of my life intervened, a chapter that put everything else on hold.  In December, 2010, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.   

There is nothing exhilarating about cancer.  From the discovery of the first suspicious lump, through the biopsy, the myriad of tests, and the heart-wrenching wait for the results that brought the dreaded confirmation, it was all a nightmare.  The fact that my husband Klaus had died of cancer just added to the agonizing realization that life does not always go the way we  plan.  “When one parent dies of cancer, the other should be automatically immune” Emilie insisted.   She had sat with me through the four nail-biting hours as we waited for the call from the doctor about the biopsy results.

 When the call came, she dissolved into tears. I understood. She had been such a stalwart support through her Dad’s battle with lymphoma.  She knew all too well the pain and anguish of a cancer diagnosis.  From that moment on, she hardly let me out of her sight.  By virtue of geography she was the one of my kids close at hand to walk me through this journey. She was at my side for the first appointment with the surgeon, through subsequent tests and then she sat in the waiting room at the hospital on January 20th for six long hours while I had a bi-lateral mastectomy.  She nursed me round the clock once I was back home—she emptied the drains, changed the dressings, provided my meals, even encouraging me to have a glass of wine. Liesel and Chris each came for a week during my tedious convalescence and they too brought tons of encouragement and support.  I could not have made it without the support of my three childen.

As I slowly regained my strength, I begin to think of ways to return to a life full of purpose and good health. I remembered Emilie’s words about the power and mystery of running and decided that, as soon as I was able, I would return to the track at the university to start purposeful walking again, with the hope that I could gradually add a lap or two at a slow run. Once I was able to do that, with Emilie’s encouragement, I set a goal for myself of running the 5K Susan Komen Run for the Cure in Bangor in September.

I started walking in April, began to run a few laps in May, and continued training throughout the summer, including two months in Utah where I did my running at an altitude of 6000 feet.  That was hard but it helped, because when I returned to Maine in early September, I was very close to being able to run the 3 miles without stopping.

Finally the morning of September 17th arrived.  Emilie and Skyler picked me up early,  both wearing the white Run for the Cure T-shirts. I was decked out in the bright pink shirt with SURVIVOR in big letters down the front. I also was wearing brand new sleek running pants because both daughters insisted that one does not run in jeans.

 When we arrived at the starting line, I was astounded by the crowds milling about—around 5000 participants.  The best part was discovering a dozen of Emilie’s friends, and my friends Lois and Bill there, carrying signs that said TEAM BETH—my very own cheering squad. The sun was bright, the sky was blue and the air was crisp. I felt inspired. At 8:00 sharp, the gun went off and soon we were off.  With Emilie on one side of me and two friends Doug and Nancy on the other, I slowly fell into a comfortable pace and with the exception of one hill, I managed to run the entire 5K race. There were moments of struggle to be sure but to have an expert runner on each side of me gave me the confidence I needed.  I  understood that my running partners were running way below their normal pace.  I appreciated their sacrifice.

As we hit the third mile,  the excitement level began a long, slow crescendo.  A gentle downhill slope provided the momentum I needed and soon Emilie said, “Look Mom, there’s the finish line.” About two long blocks ahead I could see the huge arch of pink and white balloons that marked the end of the race.  Though I really felt tired at that point, I managed to increase my pace as we headed for those balloons and just as I approached the finish, I heard a voice from the loudspeakers shout out “Here comes Beth Brand.  You are beautiful, baby!  You did great! You made it.”  Emilie and I ran across the finish line, jubilant, hand in hand. She looked up at me with a broad smile on her face.  We knew we had finished more than just a race—we had won this battle with cancer. 
Finally, I got it.  I understood the exhilaration of running.

Emilie's note:  Keep in mind my mom was 73 years old when she started to run.  When are you going to start?

In case you missed it last September, here is the video that captures the day.


Carrie @ Maine Mom on the Run said...

Beautiful, Emilie. You mom is an inspiration, to be sure.

ltlindian said...

I, the girl who never gets all weepy, is a little bit teary right now. THAT is what life is all about, isn't it?

kara said...

I have tears in my eyes. The journey you shared together is what life is about. You are both an inspiration and your mom is Amazing :) xo Kara

Lisa said...

Chills. Nothing but chills.

Anne-Marie said...

Beautiful, Beth! What an inspiration.

Angela said...

Well, it's great to know that not only can you make me cry, your Mom can as well. xoxoxo

What an amazing family of beautiful writers and women.

ann said...

Awesome, simply awesome!

Stephanie said...

This is so inspiring! Love to you all from Zurich. xo

Jen said...

Oh my, teary eyed right now. Your mom is truly and inspiration.

Willow @ My Own Trail said...

So beautiful! I just rewatched the video, which totally brings tears to my eyes. What is the song that you used...the "happy" one?

love is written here said...

Beth, I've been meaning to sit down and read this and seeing you today reminded me. I am in such awe of you in so many ways. You are a survivor in every way and one tough cookie. What a wonderful affirmation of your life that you started to run and ran in the Koman Race. It was such an honor to be on your team. Love you so much.

Emilie said...

Willow! The song is "happy" by Natasha Bedingfield. :)