Today, January 4, 2015, the sports world lost a true legend and cancer claimed yet another life. As I rolled over this morning and briefly checked my phone I learned of the passing of Stuart Scott, the cause? Cancer. I remember watching Stuart’s ESPY speech this past summer and being all too familiar with the battle he and his family were courageously and aggressively fighting each day. My hatred towards cancer grew stronger as I tearfully watched his heartfelt, inspirational acceptance speech. The words he spoke that night will be remembered and repeated for years after his death along with those such as the great Jimmy V. He held all of our attention when he spoke in that voice that so many of us grew used to hearing each morning when we turned on our televisions and tuned into Sportscenter. He spoke, “When you die, it does not mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.” As social media flooded with tributes in memory of a man so many of us only knew through our television screen it became obvious that Stuart was right. He indeed did not lose to cancer, he lived and he lived with a purpose and a passion for life. His infectious smile hid the battle he was facing inside and his signature “booyah” along with his unique style of reporting brought joy to so many of us sports fans. His legacy will live on in his two daughters and the countless reporters he inspired to be their own instead of trying to fit a mold. His death, but more importantly his life, has touched countless souls and put this cruel, unforgiving disease on center stage. It was his death that once again reminded me why I’m fighting the battle that Stuart, my sister, and countless others were unable to finish fighting themselves. It is with much hope that I ask you all to continue reading and join me in this fight.
Three months ago I decided to apply for a spot on Dana Farber Cancer Centers Boston marathon team. The lengthy application asked how cancer has touched my life as well as my reasoning for wanting to be a part of the team. My story, or more importantly my sisters courageous story, was one I was proud to share. It was cancer and ultimately my sisters death that lead to the crazy turn of events that brought me to where I am today and introduced me to the people that inspired me to fill out the application. In a weird way its the deep often painful scars that cancer has left me with that at times I can’t help but be thankful for. As I filled out the application and began telling Margo’s story I realized how those bad times, cancer, mean everything now. It was those moments, the complete and total darkness, that lead me to the happiness and love of life I have been able to find two years later. It has become the motivation to do the things maybe at times I didn’t think were possible. It has become my reason for living.
Following my acceptance my excitement to be a part of such a select group of individuals chosen to run in honor of the survivors, the fighters, and the remembered temporarily distracted me from the task ahead, 26.2 miles. The self discipline and and dedication it is going to require has since set in, but it is my sisters fight, countless others fight, that gives me the only motivation I need. So often I have gotten the typical reactions “Are you crazy?” ” I don’t even like to drive 26 miles” “Why would you want to do”. I understand why some people may not understand how someone could possibly enjoy running 26 miles but my response to them is running 26 miles is a hell of a lot easier than battling cancer. My answer to the question why is a simple one. Do I love to run? Absolutely. While my sister was sick I found comfort and relief in the one thing that I had always hated as an athlete. I fell in love with something that had always been considered punishment. My thoughts and my fears temporarily disappeared. I was running from reality both physically and metaphorically. However, its not my love of running that drives me to run the marathon. Do I miss the feeling I used to get as an athlete after a big win? Absolutely. I can honestly say nothing has ever compared to that feeling since my days as a competitive athlete came to an end. I know crossing the finish line will once again give me that feeling, but this is also not the reason why I run. So then why you ask? The answer is quite simple, because I CAN. I write this post today at 24 years old, the same age my sister ultimately lost her life. At 24 I have the one thing that my sister did not: my health. During her final months I watched as the ten foot walk to the bathroom became physically exhausting to my 24 year old sister. I watched as the walk down the aisle she had dreamed of for years became her own marathon, a physically and emotionally exhausting task. Through the pain and the exhaustion I saw nothing but determination in her eyes. It is that same determination that I know will carry me 26.2 miles.
My reason for writing today is to not only again voice my hatred towards this disease, but also to once again ask for your help. Over the past three years I have been beyond lucky to receive the support of close family and friends as well as people I hardly know. Two years ago you all rallied behind me as we raised $4,000 to dress our student section in teal shirts in honor of my sister. You followed me through the many ups and downs my sisters loss brought with it, and you helped me make Hawks vs Cancer a bigger success than I ever thought possible. As a part of the Dana Farber team it is my job to fundraise, and if you know me well you know that I will not stop at my goal. The sky is the limit. Whether its $1 or $100 anything helps. I am sure quite a few of you reading this are in the same position I was two years ago, a broke college student. I ask that you share this link. Time and time again we see the power of social media. If anything deserves to go viral it is this. Share it for the family member or friend who’s life has been touched by cancer. Share it for the countless lives lost. Share it for the those fighting the grueling fight. Share it for the family members that are forced to live in a world without their loved one. Share it to one day see the end.
On April 20, 2015 I will lace up my asics with a heavy heart. I can say with certainty my sister will be on my mind for all 26.2 miles, but as I cross the finish line on Boylston Street, a true honor, I know that we will be one step closer to the ultimate goal: a world without Cancer.
Click on the following link to make a donation to my Dana Farber Marathon team fundraising page for this years Boston Marathon. I cannot thank you enough for you support.