Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wife's Persistence Keeps Her Running

(From the November 13, 2014 Grand Haven Tribune)

Ever since my wife’s diagnosis with stage 4 breast cancer more than two and a half years ago, people often ask me, “How is your wife doing?” More recently, they have been asking me, “WHAT is your wife doing?!”

In late summer, my wife had a foot injury common to runners. It is a stress fracture in her heel. An X-ray and an MRI confirmed it. The doctor said she needed to wear one of those boots (air cast) you see people in with similar injuries. What is worse, she had to stay off her foot for several weeks. At a subsequent check-up, the doctor said another month.

So my wife, more active than a hummingbird, who has survived surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation, and has run through all of the significant stress and side-effects of cancer treatment, would now be sidelined by a common running injury unrelated to cancer. Right.

Wrong. You think I would know this woman after nearly 20 years of marriage. You would especially think I know her these past several years.

She makes the word tenacious seem synonymous with a half-hearted effort. She is well beyond that. She did relent and wear the boot, and has been staying off her foot. But she doesn’t just use her crutches to go from bed to couch and back again. No, she got one of those scooters so she could be more mobile. Of course, what comes with mobility? Running.

This is why people started asking me what my wife is doing instead of how she is doing. They see her on the bike paths of Spring Lake, pushing with her good leg, following the same routes she would on two good legs. She calls it her scoot and run. I call it crazy. Kids want to upgrade from their scooters to the kind my wife has, especially since she has it all decked out with pink “Hello Kitty” tape.

But wait, there’s more.

It wasn’t enough for my boot-scootin’ bride to just tool around on bike paths. She had to participate in one of our traditional events—the Grand Rapids Half Marathon. Since I worry about her, I had to participate as well.

A friend from church works with the race director and suggested we start a half-hour early, with the group of people called “Team in Training” who push specialized wheeled strollers to run with special needs children and others who are physically challenged. Running with a smaller group put me at ease that my wife would not miss a pothole in the crowd of thousands of runners, or get knocked off her scooter.

It was cold and dark when we started. In other words, it was a good morning to have stayed in bed. But as is often the case, after we started running the light and warmth increased, as did our positive spirits.

Running across a downtown bridge over the Grand River that early in the morning afforded us a view of stunning beauty. Fall colors and skyscrapers were reflected in perfectly still water, as a light fog hovered above it. As dawn increased, we were able to enjoy even more of the beauty of fall as we ran.

Eventually, more crowds of spectators lined the course. We enjoyed their encouragements, as well as their comments about their amusement and shock to see a woman “running” a half marathon on a scooter. Comments ran the full course, from “you go girl!” to “that is dedication” to “here’s something you don’t see every day” to “what an inspiration!” We also saw her doctor, who advised her not to do this, and waved and smiled as we ran and scooted past him.

Even the elite runners took notice and gave encouragement. Since we got a half-hour head start, we were able to see the lead runners as they passed us in the hilly section at about mile 7 or 8. They patted her back, offered words of encouragement, and even said they—the fastest in the race—were inspired by her. It was really touching. Also, I can now say that I was neck and neck with the lead runners in a half marathon, for about a second or two.

We finished the race to comments from the PA announcer and cheers from the crowd of spectators at the finish line. We had completed the course in 2 hours and 5 minutes, slower than our normal running time but not bad considering the circumstances.

And when we consider the circumstances, all that my wife has been through in the past two and a half years, we would have to say we have run the course well. We have run in spite of situations. We have persevered, and finished the race. We have thought about where we’ve been, and where we have yet to go, and we find the strength to keep going. We have done so with encouragement and good cheer. I dare say we even enjoy the race.

The day after the event, she had her sixth surgery related to cancer. This one was on her nose. As a result, she can’t run for a while. But I’m sure she will run again.

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