Keep Running the Race

Last updated: December 2021

When I think of my difficult cancer journey, a bible verse from Hebrews 12:1 comes to mind. Keep running the race set before you with endurance.

I was a runner most of my life, running a variety of distances, racing everything from 5Ks to half marathons. Endurance was a big part of it. I pushed myself to the finish line no matter how painful or exhausted I was. Most of the time, I knew just how to pace myself so I’d have enough for a little kick at the end.

The race begins

I was diagnosed with two separate cancers in 2016. The first was a rare blood cancer called polycythemia vera or PV. The second was breast cancer. I was familiar with breast cancer as my mom had it twice. Because of that, I knew the chances of getting breast cancer were high.

I never expected the PV. I had never heard of it when I was diagnosed. What I learned was the cancer causes my body to make too many red blood cells and thickens my blood. It also increases my risk of circulatory issues like heart attack, stroke, and blood clots. In addition, there were multiple undesirable symptoms like headaches, night sweats, itching, and fatigue.

Between the breast cancer chemo and the low energy because of the PV, many days I struggled to get out of bed. Often just making it through the day took the endurance of running a marathon.

Marathon parallels

I was caught off guard and was unprepared for the race I was about to run.

I frequently think back to the one and only marathon I participated in, the prestigious New York City Marathon. A runner friend asked if I wanted to run it only a few weeks before the event. Initially, I hesitated. Although I was a decent runner, it was farther than I had ever raced. In addition, I already had an iliotibial band issue, which had been plaguing me for quite a while. However, I decided to go, after all, it was a free trip to New York and it was one of those things on my bucket list.

I started fast and was right on target until about the 12th mile. Then bam! The pain on the side of my knee started. Initially, I alternated between running and walking until I could do it no more. Then I walked. Every single step of the remaining arduous 13 miles was excruciating. I never was so happy to see a finish line.

Trying to Reach the Finish

I see parallels between the marathon and my current cancer state. Breast cancer chemo and the multiple surgeries in 2017 are thankfully a distance past. I started a medication for the PV, which has helped with symptom control tremendously and helped me “get back into the race.” However, my life is still a daily challenge. There are still metaphorical obstacles keeping me from the end.

I’d like to say I have reached the finish line on my cancer race, but I know I haven’t yet. But I have my endurance pushing me forward. Until I reach the finish line, I’ll just keep running the race.

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