The start of 26.2 with Donna (source).My first race.
The very first running event I did was a 5k for breast cancer in Houston in 2001. I signed up because my grandmother was going through a particularly bad round of cancer at the time. I was far from home in Maine and couldn't be there to support and comfort her. Though she wasn't dealing with breast cancer, I felt the need to support others who were faced with a similar challenge of a cancer diagnosis and the race was a small way I could reach out. I was by no means a runner at this point. I didn't train at all for the race and ran in a thick cotton t-shirt in the hot, Houston humidity. Needless to say, from a running standpoint it didn't go well (honestly I thought the race would never end), but from an inspirational standpoint, I was hooked. Here were thousands of people with various levels of fitness all coming together on a Saturday morning to sweat, cry, share stories, raise awareness, and do their little part to support those who needed their support.
Fast forward a year and a half, and I was experiencing a whole different side of the challenges of cancer. My first post college job was working as a cancer researcher in one of the biggest cancer research hospitals in the country (yes, I really am a nerd). My experience with the challenges of research, the constant search for funding, and the heartbreaking stories of our patients drove me to want to do something more. I turned to charity running again to fill this need.
Like many of you, cancer has greatly affected the lives of many important people in my life. Watching their struggles, their journey through cancer treatments, and the stress on their loved ones has been at times overwhelming and a true lesson in the power of the human spirit. A cancer diagnosis is filled with fear and endless questions. It is a challenge that you can't understand until you experience it yourself, which hopefully most of us will never have to do. But it is something best faced with unity, support, and education. I am continuously amazed with the attitudes and emotional strength of my friends and family. A close friend of mine is currently facing breast cancer, her third cancer. Facing cancer 3 times is something that would frustrate and defeat many of us. But not her. I am astounded by her strength, her constant ability to find the lighter side of cancer treatment (there is one, I promise), and her perpetual optimism. She is truly inspirational.
There were two key things about the Donna Foundation that grabbed me. The first is their approach to the challenge of cancer. Instead of taking a combative approach filled with words like fighting or battling, the 26.2 with Donna Foundation encourages facing the challenge of a cancer diagnosis with love, support, and positivity. Cancer diagnoses are stressful enough. Let's not compound it with words of conflict. The second element is that 100% of the race proceeds (registration fees etc) and the fundraising dollars go directly to the charity. No money is spent on overhead. 70% of that money is spent on bench-top breast cancer research, specifically the Translational Genomics Program at the Mayo Clinic under the leadership of Dr. Edith Perez. As a research scientist, I know how vital this funding is and the advancements that can be made from the work of scientists like Dr. Perez. The other 30% supports patients who are facing critical financial needs due to their treatments.
Dr. Perez and Donna. (source)
If you would like to support my run, please check out my fundraising page. All donations are greatly appreciated!