Two years ago I had been attending school in Montana, a place that I will always love dearly and view as my home. They have an excellent biochemistry department along with great running, skiing, and people. However, my mom had a seizure in February and it was serious. It had never been my intention to leave her side permanently and it became obvious that her life was on a different time frame than we had expected. I flew back home and knew I could not leave her until she was better or dead. Unfortunately it was terminal cancer, a rare form of brain tumor, and that meant I needed to drop out of school and move back home. As something to look forward to, I signed up for the marine corps marathon and historic half marathon.
I didn't 'train' for it, but based on my previous shape, I was able to run a solid 1:31 in spring of 2010. Over the next half year I had to watch as my mom deteriorated. We had to keep a constant eye on her because at any moment she could pull herself out of her wheel chair, her bed, have a seizure, or die. Between this and working (for extremely kind and understanding bosses that I could never be adequately grateful towards for how well they treated me) I needed an outlet. And I ran a lot and fast (I needed to get back to my mom, who could have injured herself while I was gone).
I ran the Marine Corps Marathon the day before we removed my mother's breathing tube to let her die a natural death as she would wish. Suddenly I realized that I had changed over the last half year and I was stronger. She was with me. My cat (whose kidneys had failed two weeks earlier and my sister and I had to put to sleep) was with me, nudging me forward. I had been transformed by my experiences. And I ran a solid 3:12 despite a lack of consistent training. Suddenly I knew that I was much more capable of anything I had previously tried to accomplish and I set myself a new goal that I believed (crazily enough) was totally attainable: run a marathon at a 6 minute mile pace.
Since my mom died shortly after Thanksgiving, my life has changed a lot and it is hard. But sometimes I worry it is too easy and I am getting soft. I am in medical school and working hard consistently and have finished my first year (something I view as a triumph) this past Thursday. I ran the half marathon today, thinking of when I had just fully left Montana and returned to my high school home to be with my mom. And I won the race. Life is 'easy' now that I don't have the guilt and pain of being a caretaker but I am ready for when things go wrong again because life will never remain easy or simple. But while I can, I have been throwing my full effort into running as fast as I can and learning as much as I can to be a great doctor. But also to help inspire others to take care of themselves so people know they can be a hero when life gets hard. My mom was my hero. As difficult as it is to run a half marathon, it is a lot harder to push yourself walk when you know that your nervous system is being destroyed from the inside out and no matter what, you are fighting a losing battle, and soon you will not be able to walk, turn into a vegetable completely paralyzed, and then die. Yet she still tried. And so I still run.