“It’s cancer.” Nothing can knock you off of your footing quite like those words.
My sister received a call with those words in October 2011. At first, they weren’t sure what type of cancer. She had a very large mucinous tumor removed, and it took more than two weeks for both Baylor and MD Anderson to examine it to determine if it was ovarian or pancreatic cancer.
To give you a little background, my sister is only 42-years-old. She is a single mom to my wonderful nephew, Gabriel. She is my hero and always has been. She is the happiest person I’ve ever met. Her positive attitude and boisterous laughter is infectious. The only problem is that she lives in Texas, more than 1,200 miles away from me. We talk every day, but those miles are still there between us. When she told me she had cancer, I felt helpless, useless and angry. Every patient who is diagnosed with cancer is someone’s mother, sister, father, friend, husband, etc. Each person is special, but this was MY sister. It felt so unfair. She is the first person I want to call when I have news. I love her, and I couldn’t imagine life without her.
Sometimes God puts us in the right place at the right time. When I received my sister’s news, I was in a car with many of my Avera hospital marketing friends traveling to a conference. Immediately they sprung in to action. They began searching online for valid information for me about her condition, they called their friends in oncology to ask questions, and they gave me lots of hugs and encouragement. It felt so strange to tell this group of women that I worked with about this incredibly personal news, but their love and encouragement gave me strength. This is why I love Avera. People like my co-workers are throughout the system offering the same encouragement to people facing challenges every day.
My Motivation to Run
It was after my sister’s diagnosis that I decided to make a lifestyle change. I began running more and eating less-processed foods. I lost 10 pounds, and I feel stronger than I have in years. We didn’t know for more than a year if there was a genetic component to her diagnosis, so I decided to wage my own war on cancer. I beat it by lowering my risk factors. In a time when so many things seemed out-of-control, running was my sanctuary.
Next Saturday I will lace up my shoes to run the Avera Race. I will proudly write on my sticker that I am running for a survivor, my sister. After months of surgery and chemotherapy, she is in remission. She goes in for regular visits, but doesn’t need to return to the large cancer center unless something changes. I am thankful for the advances in treatment that are made possible by people’s donations. The donations for the Avera Race stay local to benefit cancer patients in our community. Even though my sister wasn’t able to receive her treatment here, I benefited greatly from the support of our oncology professionals at Avera. I wish all of you the best of luck with your last week of training. Who will you dedicate your race to?