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Running For More…

The personal blog and website of Kristen Cincotta

Posts Tagged ‘Mom’

My 3-Day Fundraising Plea

Saturday, September 12th, 2015

The Atlanta 3-Day is less than five weeks away. Thanks to the incredible generosity of my friends and family, I have already hit my fundraising minimum. In fact, everyone was SO generous, I reached that important milestone within two weeks of sending out my fundraising letters (WOW!). Words cannot express how grateful I am to everyone who has donated to date. This is an important and personal cause for me, and it touches my heart to see everyone come together to support the great work of Susan G. Komen in the fight against breast cancer.

HOWEVER! The walk is still five weeks away. That means there is still more time to raise money, and I don’t intend to stop trying until the clock runs out. My current fundraising goal is $5000, as it has been every time I’ve done the 3-Day. I would LOVE to hit this goal for a fourth time. But I can’t do it alone. So, to that end, I’m sharing my fundraising request here as well. Please read this to see why this cause is so important to me, especially this year, and what you can do to help. And if you know of anyone else who might be interested, I would be forever grateful to you for passing this on.

Thanks!


Dear Reader,

Shortly before my mom died of breast cancer last year, she told me something that I didn’t know. Unbeknownst to me, back in 2010, she had planned to walk in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day with my friends and me when we walked in memory of our friend Marcia’s passing. Marcia was my best friend’s mom. Marcia had gone through her cancer treatment alongside my mom for two years, enduring all of the ups and downs together before she sadly passed away in April of 2009. We walked to honor her relentless optimism throughout her battle and my mom wanted to be a part of that.

Unfortunately, that plan was derailed before it even got started. Mom’s cancer came back early in 2010, just as we were all starting to train and fundraise. She traveled to Boston with us in July and cheered us all on as “team mom”, never letting on that she had once hoped to be walking with us. Even then, she held out hope that she would eventually be well enough to walk those long 60 miles herself someday soon. Like me, she wanted to opportunity to give back to the breast cancer community that had benefitted her so much over the years. She wanted to take some responsibility for her own fate by raising money for the cancer research that had already prolonged her own life by several years beyond what her doctors expected.

Mom never got the chance to walk with me. While her health ebbed and flowed over the next few years, life kept me away from the 3-Day. I didn’t know she hoped to walk with me and I didn’t make the time to take on the fundraising and training challenges. When she told me her secret wish just a few weeks before she died, I knew immediately that I had to walk again. Whether by her side, with her cheering me on from the sidelines, or in her memory, I was determined to walk the 3-Day again. And this October, with her spirit guiding my feet over the streets and hills of Atlanta, I will do just that.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, the Susan G. Komen 3-Day is a 60 mile walk over the course of three days that raises funds for Susan G. Komen for the Cure and breast cancer research. A Susan G. Komen for the Cure grant has impacted virtually every major advance in the fight against breast cancer in the last 32 years. The money that we raise through the 3-Day will truly help to save the lives of untold numbers of women. In order to participate in this event, I must raise at least $2300 and would love to raise $5000. This is a huge goal and I cannot reach it by myself. Please consider making a fully tax-deductible donation to help me reach my fundraising goal today.

If you would like to contribute, you can do so one of two ways. If you prefer to take the traditional route, you can mail a check to me at home (email me at kscincotta@gmail.com for my address). The check should be made out to “Susan G. Komen 3-Day” in the amount that is right for you and then I will do all the legwork to get your donation processed. If you prefer to donate online, please visit my personal fundraising page at www.the3day.org/goto/kscincotta to process your donation. Donations made online can be made as one time payments or in installments for up to four months. As you consider your donation, please keep in mind that many companies have matching gift programs, an easy way for you to double the size of your contribution!

The Atlanta 3-Day steps off in less than 60 days. That is not much time for me to reach my fundraising goals. But I am confident that together, we can get there. I am doing all of the walking. I just need your help with the fundraising. My mom never got the chance to do this walk. This year, I am walking for her. Please help me get there.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this letter. I hope that you will join me in taking part in this incredible adventure. Please share this information with anyone that you think might be interested. If I have learned one thing during my time with the 3-Day, it is that everyone, everywhere has been touched by breast cancer in some way. This is something that has affected all of us and together, we are working towards achieving the ultimate goal of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day: a world without breast cancer.

All my best,

Kristen Sager Cincotta

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Clicking on the above image will also take you to my fundraising page. Thanks!

 

The Road to the 2015 Atlanta 3 Day Begins Here!

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

After a bit of a blogging hiatus while I figured out the whole “working mom” thing, I am thrilled to jump back into active blogging in order to announce that I’m walking in the 2015 3 Day for the Cure in Atlanta!

Ok, so “announce” is a bit of a dramatic word. Most of my friends and family have known that I’m walking again for quite some time now. But it’s been five years since my last 60 mile go around, so I felt like this sort of deserved it’s own “Tada!” moment. So officially, I will be walking 60 miles in 3 Days here in Atlanta in October!


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Kicking off my 2015 3 Day training with a stunning sunrise!


For those who aren’t familiar with the 3 Day, this 60 mile walk (spread across, yes, 3 days) benefits Susan G. Komen at the national level. That means that all of the money that is raised goes to fund breast cancer initiatives, and most importantly to me, cutting edge breast cancer research. While the majority of the money raised through local Race for the Cure events generally stays in the area where it was raised to fund community-level breast cancer programs, the 3 Day funds RESEARCH. As a scientist myself, I know the power of those dollars. And this year, I will again be helping to raise those dollars by walking a lot of miles – both during the event and in the next 16 weeks leading up to it.

I will be posting more in the future (hopefully A LOT more) about the fundraising side of this adventure. For tonight, though, I want to focus on two things: my training plans and my pitch to all of you to join me!

Training Plans – Running and Walking!

While it is certainly not required, it is very important to me to walk all 60 miles of the 3 Day in October. In order to do that, and to do it with a smile on my face, I will need to train. And that means walking, walking, walking.


With my teammate Mel during my first 3 Day in Atlanta in 2007.

With my teammate Mel during my first 3 Day in 2007.


I’m not going to lie – I’m predominantly a runner these days, so the idea of slowing down to log some walking miles isn’t super tempting. But, running and walking really do use different muscles. Plus, there are gear challenges with the 3 Day that aren’t really a factor with running, even at long distances (have you ever run with a fanny pack??). So walking some serious miles over the next 16 weeks is going to be crucial.

That being said, I LOVE running races. I probably “race” too often, but I can’t help it. I love the energy of it, even at small community 5Ks, and I don’t want to lose that over the next four months. I’m also hoping to run a half marathon early next year, if not before the end of this year. So that means that even as I log more walking miles than I care to think about right now, I still want to maintain at least some level of running fitness throughout this journey.

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve spent some time playing around with training plans, including the 16 week plan that the 3 Day coaches recommend. After a good amount of time with my calendar (and talking things through with my husband!), I’ve finally landed on a somewhat convoluted plan that I think will let me get in enough walking miles to be fit for the 3 Day while still running enough to make me happy. Here’s the basic gist of how it will all work:

  • The training plan I’m following covers 16 weeks, ending the weekend of the 3 Day (October 16-18th, for those keeping track at home).
  • I will be following a modified 10 week 10k running training plan for most of those 16 weeks. I’m going to repeat the last three weeks twice in order to get to the full 16 weeks.
  • Every other weekend, I will substitute my Saturday long run for the long Saturday/Sunday back-to-back long runs of the corresponding weekend on the official 16 week 3 Day training plan.

Note: Most running plans feature one weekend long run followed by a recovery day. On the 3 Day, we walk 20 miles on three consecutive days. As a result, the most important feature of 3 Day training is walking long miles on back to back days so that your body becomes acclimated to bouncing back quickly. So running weeks will be one long run, usually on Saturdays, and walking weeks will be long walks on both Saturdays AND Sundays.

  • Every fourth week, I will substitute my weekday runs for the corresponding weekday walks on the official 16 week 3 Day training plan.
  • As best as I can, I am going to try to fit in up to three cross training sessions as well (two strength sessions + yoga). Fingers crossed!
  • Oh, and in the interest of not re-aggravating my ITBS, I’m going to try to do some of my knee PT exercises twice a week.

So, most weeks will look like this:

  • Monday – short run +  strength
  • Tuesday – rest
  • Wednesday – optional short run + knee PT
  • Thursday – speed work
  • Friday – strength + knee PT
  • Saturday – long run/race or long walk
  • Sunday – long walk (if applicable) + yoga

And my full walking weeks will look like this:

  • Monday – short/medium walk + strength
  • Tuesday – rest
  • Wednesday – optional short run + knee PT
  • Thursday – short/medium walk
  • Friday – strength + knee PT
  • Saturday – long walk
  • Sunday – long walk + yoga

More or less. There are some weeks where I’ll have to get creative, but for the most part, that’s what I’m hoping to do. My mantra word for the second half of 2015 is EXECUTE. I am fully committed to executing this plan.


With my teammates at Closing in the 2010 Boston 3 Day.

With my teammates at Closing in the 2010 Boston 3 Day.


Every week, I will try my best to post a recap of my training for the previous week. In the past, posting regular training recaps has really helped to keep me accountable and I expect that to be true again. I’m also hoping that when all of you see how hard I’m working to prepare for the 3 Day, you’ll be more motivated to help me reach my not insignificant fundraising goals. Wink,wink.

My Challenge to YOU

As all of us 3 Day veterans can attest, no one ever walks the 3 Day alone. Even if you start out alone, you are quickly absorbed into the pink bubble, surrounded by supportive “teammates”. As of right now, though, I don’t have any formal teammates, which is a first for me. I have a number of friends that I’ve met through the 3 Day who will also be walking in Atlanta (including some that I’ve never met before, despite “knowing” them online for five years!). So I know I won’t be alone. But I would love to have some official teammates as well.

Walking 60 miles in 3 days sounds like a huge feat. Raising $2300 in order to have that privilege can seem impossible. But I am here to tell you that it isn’t. I strongly believe that just about anyone can meet this challenge (and even if you don’t, your efforts in the attempt are still SO VALUABLE). My family members have recently become Fitbit-obsessed. I’m hoping that some of them kick it up a notch and take on the 3 Day with me. I also know a number of people who are on “get fit” kicks of their own. What better way to motivate yourselves than to take on the 3 Day?

Honestly, there are as many reasons to do the 3 Day as there are people who have walked it over the years. Whatever your reason, if you feel a pull in your heart to get involved, I strongly encourage you to do so. You will not regret it. The theme for the 3 Day this year is “Do Something Huge”. Make this your something huge.


My reason for walking, at the 2008 Atlanta 3 Day.

My reason for walking, at the 2008 Atlanta 3 Day.


If you choose to join me, the team I envision will be relatively informal. As a three time 3 Day vet, I can help answer any questions you may have and of course, we’ll celebrate together on the event in October. But your training will be up to you to execute (or not) as you wish, as will your fundraising. The primary focus of our team will be support and encouragement. This will be a 100% NO PRESSURE team.

I know a lot of people have expressed to me that they’re intrigued by the challenge that the 3 Day offers. Or that they’d love to do something, anything, to help in the fight against breast cancer. So this is your chance. Come walk with me in October. You can do it. I know you can.

If you would like to join my team, you can do so by clicking here. While you can sign up anytime between now and the event in October, I highly encourage you to register soon in order to give you ample time to fundraise and train. If you have any questions, you can shoot me an email here or tweet at me here. Or you can always just leave a comment on this blog post.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure! Whether you choose to walk with me or just to support from afar, we are all in this together. So thanks!

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While I am not kicking off my formal fundraising efforts just yet, my fundraising page is ready to accept donations. If you would like to make a donation in support of my efforts, you can do so by clicking on the link above or by using the widget in the left-hand corner of this page. Thanks!

Welcome to the world, Dash!

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Seventeen days ago, my husband Mike and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary by welcoming this guy into the world:

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As most of you know by now from social media, his name is Dashiell Reeves Cincotta and we affectionately call him Dash. Although my pregnancy was easy, Dash’s birth was not. I don’t feel comfortable sharing all of the details of his birth story in this public forum, but suffice it to say, three days of contractions (two days worth of which were induced following my water breaking) does not make for fun times. The length of time between when my water broke and when Dash was born also led to some nervous moments immediately after he arrived as well. Thankfully, everything turned out for the best and everyone has been doing well since then.

We have now been at home for two weeks, slowly figuring each other out and learning our new family dynamics. My mother-in-law was here for the first week and was hugely helpful, especially when it came to letting me catch up on sleep and recover from labor and delivery. She was joined by my father-in-law and brother-in-law last weekend, making them all Dash’s first visitors. While it was great to be surrounded by so much love and support, I think that by the time everyone left, both Mike and I were ready to be on our own as a small family and try to find our own new routines. The past few days have been a wonderful mix of happy baby snuggles (I could let this guy sleep on my chest for days!), frustration over seemingly cause-less baby wails, proud parenting victories (no crying during bath time last night!), and a love between all of us that grows exponentially with each passing day.

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During the time since Dash was born, the world said good bye to Robin Williams. His passing led to a lot of discussion about the need for open dialogue around depression. In that spirit, I can honestly say that while things get better every single day, being a new parent has been a hard adjustment for me. I knew it would be physically exhausting, but the emotional toll it has taken has been a surprise. The best way to describe how I feel is this: I feel homesick. Not for a place, but for other times. I loved being pregnant and now realize that I wasn’t prepared for it to come to such an abrupt end. Our lives pre-Dash were easy and free, if a bit quiet in recent years. Shenanigans was the center of our universe for a very long time and I hate the idea that she is feeling neglected due to a change she had no say in. The thought that I can never go back to those times hurts my heart immensely, as it always does following a major life change. I also miss my mom more than I thought humanly possible. Knowing that, for the first time ever, my life has moved on to a stage that she will never be a part of makes everything that much harder. I am leaving her behind with my old life and that thought breaks my heart on a daily basis.

All of that being said, with each passing day, things get a bit easier. Sleep certainly helps, as does having a wonderfully supportive partner. I’ve also done better this week about getting outside for some fresh air and exercise most days. I can’t wait until next week when I can start running again, even though I know it will be challenging. Writing things out, as I’m doing here, also helps me to make sense of things. Returning to some of these old habits is a helpful reminder that not everything in life has changed and even those things that have changed, haven’t necessarily changed for the worse. Life just looks a bit different now and that’s ok.

As for Dash and I, we’re taking things one day at a time. We fall deeper in love with each other by the minute and I find that if he sleeps for too long, I actually miss him. Even with all of the emotions that I’ve been wrestling with, I have rarely felt overwhelmed by Dash himself. Holding him and realizing that I really do have the ability to comfort and soothe this tiny person in a way no one else does has been incredibly reassuring. I am genuinely amazed that he finds my singing voice soothing. Spending time looking into his big, curious eyes and feeling him snuggle into me has been very comforting to me in much the same way that holding Mike’s hand has always made me feel better in times of stress in the past. I already find myself wishing Dash would grow slower and stay this tiny forever, even as I simultaneously long for the days when he can take care of himself a bit more. I have not for one second regretted our choice to become parents.

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I promise that not all of my blog posts going forward will be quite this personal, or even this Dash-heavy. But since I know a lot of people are checking in on me and are curious how I’m doing, I thought I would share a more thorough update. From here on, though, things will be back to blogging business as usual, as time and Dash allows. Next week starts my official “training” for the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving Day, so you can expect to see training updates popping up regularly (hopefully weekly!). I’m not fundraising for this race, since completing this race is enough of a challenge for me at this point, but I always have my eye on the cancer advocacy world and will try to mention different events and opportunities as I learn about them. I’m already thinking about posts around the Stand Up to Cancer telethon on September 5th and both the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Atlanta walk and the Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure in October. I’m also confident that I’ll be tying on my Komen Atlanta and Atlanta Track Club volunteer shoes soon enough. So there will be plenty to write about in the months to come. Plus you never know when I’ll throw in some Dash updates, so definitely check back regularly.

For now, though, a deep and sincere thanks to everyone for their well wishes and supportive words. While we haven’t been able to respond to everyone’s texts, tweets, emails, phone calls, cards, and Facebook messages, we have read and appreciated every single one!

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All of the gorgeous photos in this post were courtesy of Allison DePalma Photography

#100HappyDays

Monday, June 9th, 2014

It has been over four months since I last wrote a blog post. It has been an eventful four months, to say the least. Pregnancy (only seven weeks left!) and all of the related preparations and doctor’s appointments that entails, job uncertainty for my husband Mike, significant restructuring around my job, rehabbing my first significant running injury, ailing relatives, and significant volunteer time commitments have combined to keep us on our toes this year. But by far, the hardest thing that we have had to face has been the loss of my mom to breast cancer after a seven year fight. Her health declined significantly over the last six months and we finally had to say good-bye to her in mid-May. While I am coming to some sort of peace with what has happened, my heart has been forever changed by it. That she will never know the little guy growing in my belly is something I will never be able to truly comprehend.


With Mom (and Dad) at a Braves game last September

With Mom (and Dad) at a Braves game last September

I have many more things to say about my mom’s passing, as well as all of those other things I mentioned above as well. With time, I will attempt to fill in some of those blanks. I have always found writing (and running!) to be a great way to work through complicated thoughts and feelings around all sorts of topics. With everything that has been swirling around my head in the last four months, my return to this small corner of the internet has been long overdue. But tonight, I have something else that I wanted to write about: #100HappyDays!

For those who are unaware, #100HappyDays is an online photo challenge of sorts, and theoretically, an easy one at that. You sign up for the challenge on the website, and then every day for the next 100 days, you post a photo of something that made you happy during that day. Truly, anything that has brought you a moment of joy can be shared – a get together with friends, a snuggle from a loving pet, a great cup of coffee, anything. You can post your pictures on any social media site that you choose (or just email your photos to the #100HappyDays curators), although most people choose to use Instagram. And that’s it. At the end of your #100HappyDays, you will have a nice archive to look back on of everything that has brought you happiness of the previous 3+ months.

After hearing about this challenge from a number of friends (and seeing the hashtag explode in my social media feeds), I decided I wanted to give it a try. At the time, it was clear that Mom’s health was declining significantly, although we didn’t yet know how little time she had left. I was looking for a way to stay positive and focus on all of the good things happening in my life despite everything happening with Mom and this seemed like a great way to do just that. When I realized that it was approximately 100 days before my due date, it just felt right – one positive thing for each day leading up to the arrival of our little dude. So I jumped right in and began posting my pics.

Two weeks later, I flew to New York to say good-bye to my mom for the last time. I am generally a very positive, happy person. But the thought of trying to find something, ANYTHING positive in those last few days was just too much for me. While my mom was in the ICU, my father-in-law was upstairs on the main floor for a week fighting a nasty kidney infection that stemmed from some brutal kidney stones. Two days after I got to the hospital, my lifelong best friend’s father was also admitted to the same hospital (five doors down from my FIL) to recover from reparative knee surgery. I was surrounded by loved ones in all types of pain. The thought of posting a picture of an ice cream bar from the hospital cafeteria just felt trivial and disingenuous. The only thing bringing me any comfort was the immense support network that the universe conspired to provide me at the hospital in the form of my always great in-laws and a friend who has been there for me whenever I’ve needed her for the last 32 years. But they were dealing with their own stresses and posting artificially cheerful photos of them just didn’t seem right. I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t in the mood to fake it. So I stopped.

Now that I have had a bit of space from everything that happened, I think it is time to start my #100HappyDays again. I need to continue to heal and the reality is, I still have much to be happy about. Baby C is healthy and in spite of everything, this pregnancy has gone very well. I have a wonderful husband and great friends who have continually surprised me with their generosity and kindness over the last few weeks. And while not everything is great (still sorting out Hubs’ job situation!), I again want to focus on the positive. I don’t want to wallow or descend into a hole. I am taking responsibility for my own happiness as we count down to Baby C’s arrival.

Today is my new Day 1. It is exactly 50 days until Baby C’s due date, meaning approximately half of my challenge will precede his arrival and half will follow in his wake. I can’t think of a better way to document this unique time in my life.


#Day1 - Reaping the rewards of last year's hard work with my highest ever start wave placement at the Peachtree Road Race!

#Day1 – Reaping the rewards of last year’s hard work with my highest ever start wave placement at the Peachtree Road Race!

If you would like to follow along during this second attempt at #100HappyDays, my Instagram feed can be found here. I also generally share the pictures to my Twitter feed, which can be found here. See you there!

DetermiNation

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

Sometimes, in both life and running, it is about reaching new highs and achieving personal bests. And sometimes, it’s just about putting one foot in front of the other and getting through the commitments we have made for ourselves. It is about the DetermiNation to see the thing through.

Ready!

Ready!

Tomorrow is the Atlanta Marathon 10 Miler. I am running it to raise money for the American Cancer Society through their DetermiNation mini-series program. I called my fundraiser the #Run4Results because I am inspired by the great results that the ACS has had in the fight against cancer to try to achieve the best results I can. As with all of my races, I am going to run it to the best of my ability in the moment. But that “best” will be far from my personal best.

In the last few miles of the AllState 13.1 Half Marathon earlier this month, I started to develop a twinge on the outside of my right knee. That twinge grew into a full blown IT band problem on my only other long run between then and now (a 9 miler two weeks ago). I haven’t been able to run more than 2.5 miles since then without it hurting immensely. Making matters worse, I learned on that rather awful 9 mile run that running through the knee pain caused me to alter my gait in a way that re-aggravated the left ankle injury that I never let properly heal in July. I spent over a week after that long run alternating between a seriously aching knee and a seriously aching ankle.

Since then, I have taken it VERY easy with my running. I have run only three times, and never more than three miles at a time, for a total of less than nine miles in two weeks. Even with that easy schedule, I’m still hurting. So tomorrow when I toe the starting line, I know that I will be running headlong into a painful situation. And I am going to do it anyways.

I am not required to run this race tomorrow. In fact, the smart thing to do would be to skip it altogether. But I made a promise to myself and to all of my supporters in my #Run4Results fundraiser that I would run this race and I want to live up to that promise.

In the last year, I have watched as some of my nearest and dearest have continued to fulfill their obligations while facing much more significant challenges than a sore knee and ankle. I have watched my mom face every new cancer treatment and every new setback with a resolute determination to just keep fighting. I watched my father-in-law face his own cancer diagnosis and treatments with a stoic steadfastness that is inspiring. I watched the running community come together and resolve to keep racing in the face of the Boston Marathon bombings. I watched my friend Julie struggle through an endless battle with plantar fasciitis to complete as many miles as possible during the Boston 3 Day this summer. And just this week, I have watched that same friend say good-bye to her mother after her sudden passing, something that shook all of us who know Julie and her mom Pat to our core. Watching Julie persevere in the face of a pain I can only imagine has been inspiring and has made my injuries seem downright trivial.

So, in honor of my loved ones, I will attempt to do as they have done. I will keep fighting. I will be steadfast in my determination. I will resolve to make it to the finish line. I will persevere and I will reach the finish line. This will not be my best run. In fact, it may very well be my worst. But without a doubt, it will be one of my most meaningful races.

If you would like to support me in my #Run4Results fundraising efforts, you can still make a donation to the American Cancer Society in my name at the link below. I am less than $100 shy of my goal of raising $1000. Please consider making a donation in whatever amount is right for you and helping me reach my goal. More importantly, your donation will help so very many others as they persevere through their personal fights with cancer to achieve their goals, something far more important than my race tomorrow.

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Please click on the image above to visit my fundraising page and make your donation!

Race Recap Flashback: Running for the ROC at the Publix Georgia Half Marathon!

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Publix Georgia Marathon and Half Marathon display at the Expo!

If you read my mid-year running recap, then you know that I’ve been doing a great job in my races thus far this year. However, I’ve done a terrible job about writing about my races here, even the big ones. So, I’ve declared this Race Recap Flashback week. This week, I’ll be recapping both the Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure and the Peachtree Road Race. But first up, my Run for the ROC at the Publix Georgia Half Marathon!

Throughout most of 2012, I had a little voice nagging at my brain and at my heart. It kept saying the same thing: “I want to run a half marathon. I KNOW I can run a half marathon. I need to run a half marathon.” As I got more involved with the Atlanta Track Club and the local running community, that voice got louder and more persistent. So, sometime in November, I decided to bite the bullet and register for the Publix Georgia Half Marathon, right here in Atlanta. This race course comes within blocks of my house. I’ve cheered for many friends over the years as they’ve conquered these miles. The race is almost always on my birthday weekend, which also happens to be St Patrick’s Day weekend. If any race was going to be my first half, it had to be this one.

So I was settled on the race. I also knew that I wanted to jump back into the fundraising game and raise some money for a breast cancer charity, something I’ve gotten away from more than I’d like over the last two years or so. After considering a few options, I ultimately decided to dedicate my efforts to a specific cause that was near and dear to my heart: the Give Hope a New Home capital campaign to build the new regional oncology center at Upstate Medical University (aka “The ROC”). For those who are new around here, the ROC is where my mom has gotten her breast cancer treatments since 2007. The team there has been fantastic and I was ecstatic to have this opportunity to support them in something this important. It took me a bit to figure out how I was going to run this fundraiser, but eventually, a great woman named Terry Shenfeld helped me set up a fundraising page on the campaign’s website and I was off and running (so to speak…)!

Pre-Race

I’m not going to go through all my training and fundraising leading up to the race. Suffice it to say, I ran a lot (including a course run two weeks before the race), and I pumped my fundraiser as much as I could, both through social media and fundraising emails. So let’s zip ahead to the weekend of the race…

The Saturday before the half was a big day for me – it was my birthday! I’m normally the type that wants to make a big deal out my birthday. However, with the half the next day, I opted to keep things quiet and running-focused. I spent the morning doing one of my favorite things – recruiting new members at the ATC booth at the race expo. It was really fun and motivating to talk to everyone about their race goals, especially knowing that unlike in previous years, I was part of this conversation. Once I was done with my shift, it was time to pick up my race packet and hit the rest of the expo. I’m always a bit “splurge-y” at expos, but this year, I was particularly indulgent; I mean, it WAS my birthday. All together, I left with some new socks, some new running tops, a race-themed t-shirt, Clif bloks for during the race… and lots more that I’m forgetting because it was months ago. It was a lot. I was feeling confident and very much like a “real runner”.

… And then I got home and I got NERVOUS. I wanted everything to go perfectly and I was suddenly worried about all of the details: would I make it to the start on time (because, hey, last year I mis-read our Peachtree wave start times and we got there late… )? Would I be too hot (what is this heat wave in March)? Would I be too cold (but wait, what are those pre-race temps doing in the upper 40s and low 50s)? Would I be able to find Mike along the course (because I had a problem with that at the Hot Chocolate 15k)? Serious pre-race jitters, I tell ya. I was also trying to make a shirt to wear during the race and the iron on transfer just would NOT work, which was really stressing me out (I ended up just printing the graphic below on paper and pinning it on). All in all, I was feeling super anxious about this whole thing. But here’s the great thing about running: the race starts whether you’re ready or not. And when it does, you either step over that starting line or you get left behind. And no matter how nervous I was, I was not getting left behind. So I headed to bed relatively early and did my best to sleep.

My shirt back (click to enlarge)

My shirt back for the race (click to enlarge)!

The Race!

I’m sure my alarm clock went off at some godawful hour of the morning and I’m even more sure that I was wide awake long before it started bleating in my ear. I quickly got dressed and had my usual pre-race breakfast (whole grain english muffin with peanut butter and jelly and a glass of Nuun). I pinned my race bib on the front of my shirt and my “Run4ROC” information on the back, wrangled Mike into the car, and we were off. Because we had such a hard time with parking before the Hot Chocolate 15k, we had planned for Mike to just drop me off near the starting area (Centennial Olympic Park) and then he headed out to his first planned spectating spot where he napped in the car until the race got to him. Out of my paranoia, I got to the starting line REALLY early. I wandered around the area, checking out the finish line chutes, taking pictures, and warming up a little bit. I even had someone mention to me, upon seeing my shirt, that they had family that had been treated at the ROC in Syracuse, something that was completely unexpected down here in Atlanta. I took it as a good sign for the race to come. A little more stretching, a quick snack on a Clif bar, and it was time to line up with my start wave.

Ready to go!

Going into this race, I had two time goals in mind: my “I won’t be disappointed if I at least finish in… ” time was to run sub-2:30 and my “I THINK I can actually finish in… ” time was to run sub-2:20. My plan for the race was to get in front of the 2:30 pace group early on and just focus on staying in front of them. Since this was my first half marathon, I figured trying to focus too much more on pace other than that was probably a recipe for disappointment. So when I got to my start wave, I positioned myself alongside the 2:30 pacers and was ready to go. After a short walk up to the starting line, we were finally off!

The first half of this half wound through downtown Atlanta, and then up through Old Fourth Ward, Little Five Points, and Inman Park, one of my favorite neighborhoods.  Those first few miles felt EASY and I was able to get in front of the 2:30 pace group right out of the gate, just as I had planned. In fact, I was running so easily that the first time I saw Mike, I commented to him that I was worried I had gone out way too fast. The temps were perfect, the hills were manageable, and the vibe was, honestly, somewhat peaceful. At one point, we were running towards the sunrise and was struck with the thought that while I had seen plenty of sunrises on St Patrick’s Day from celebrating my birthday over night, this was probably the first one I’d seen from this side of morning. It was a beautiful morning for a run, that’s for sure.

Cruising along mid-race!

The second time I passed Mike was just after the six mile marker, at which point I ate some Clif bloks. I tried Gu on one of my long training runs and HATED it, but the bloks I could work with. Luckily, I was ready to fuel right when I saw Mike because I couldn’t get the package open and needed him to help me. Lesson learned for next time – open the package pre-race! After that, we headed up into the Virginia Highlands and Midtown, the area of town where I live and do the majority of my training runs. Between the bloks and the mental boost of running on my “home turf” I was feeling GREAT as I headed into Piedmont Park. Even better, I knew that after I left the park, there were only four miles left. Four miles? I can do that!

Yeah, I only thought those four miles would be easy. It turns out, those four miles were pretty much all uphill. Or at least, that’s how it felt. Juniper Street, you are NOT my friend. However, I knew that I had been trucking along at a solid pace and hadn’t really walked at all outside of the water stops (which was big deal for me mentally). I definitely didn’t want to blow my strong first eight miles by wussing out on the last four, so I kept pushing even as my legs grew tired. I focused on the people who I had chosen to dedicate each of my miles to and let them carry me up those hills. I also starting searching for this family of three little girls that were giving out high fives every half mile or so. Each time I’d see them, they were lined in height order so that I could just run along and high five all of them. I must’ve been running near whoever they were supporting because not long after I passed them each time, they’d hop on their bikes with their dad and scoot up the course. I must’ve high fived these girls seven or eight times in those last four miles. It was a great distraction!

Before I really knew it, I found myself making the last turn onto Marietta Street and starting the last uphill climb towards the finish. My legs were exhausted by that point, but I knew I wanted to finish strong. Suddenly, I found myself behind a cop on a bike following someone pushing stroller – completely strange. Then I realized – this was the last “runner” from the 5K that had stepped off not long after the last start wave for the half! That was motivating – I really wanted to “lap” that last 5k-er. Just as I was passing the 5K caboose, I starting hearing sirens and the screaming at the finish line got noticeably louder – could this be for me? Yeah, definitely not. It was the FIRST finisher for the full marathon. As much as I wanted to pass that last 5k runner, I did NOT want to get passed by any of the full marathoners. So, I dug deep, gave it everything I had left and pushed across the finish line, approximately three strides ahead of the winner of the marathon. YES!

All in all, it was fantastic race. I ran well throughout, took in everything I could along the course, and really enjoyed myself. Even better, I KILLED my goal time. My final time was a 2:14.10 – almost six full minutes faster than my big goal. I was ECSTATIC and ready to celebrate!

My Results!

Fundraising Results

As excited as I was about my race results, I was even more thrilled with how well my fundraiser went for the ROC. When I kicked things off at the beginning of March, I set my goal for this fundraiser at $1000. I challenged my friends and family to donate in various amounts corresponding to mileage or my time goals and had hoped to reach my fundraising goal by the end of March, two weeks post-race. Well, everyone responded so generously that I didn’t even need that long. By the time I took my first steps in the half marathon, I had already raised $518 – and that was in just two weeks! Even better, within a week of my race, that amount had ballooned to $1218, well past my goal. At that point, with an eye towards my planned fundraisers for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the American Cancer Society later in the year, I chose to stop actively promoting this fundraiser. However, even that didn’t stop my phenomenal support system from donating. As of April 15th (the last update I received from Upstate), I had raised $1513 for the ROC’s Give Hope a New Home capital campaign.

I can honestly say that I was blown away by everyone’s generosity. The ROC and their staff are near and dear to my family but I wasn’t sure how broadly this cause would resonate with others outside of the Upstate NY area. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Many people expressed to me that they were thrilled to have the opportunity to repay Upstate for the great care they’ve given to my mom, to Marcia, and to many, many others. I have no idea how far $1500 will go towards the new cancer center. I know it’s small potatoes compared to the donations from people who get whole wings named after them. But friends, together, we got Upstate $1500 closer to making the new oncology center a reality, which is more than most people can say. I believe strongly in paying it forward, especially when it comes to charitable endeavors. By helping to make the new ROC a reality, we are helping to give others a better chance at a cancer-free future.

As part of my fundraising challenge, I said that anyone who donated more than $100 would be able to dedicate one of my miles during the race to anyone they chose. I also said that I would wear their honorees name on my shirt during the race. While I received ten donations of $100 or more as part of this fundraiser, I received the majority of them after the race. Since I couldn’t recognize those donors and their honorees during the race (as you can see on my shirt image, above), I definitely wanted to give them a shout-out here. So, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to my $100+ donors:

  • Nicole Anderson – One of my #3DayTweeps friends. Nicole asked me to dedicate mile 11 to her aunt, Marilyn Duncan.
  • Julie Brock – My #3DayTweeps bestie. Julie asked me to dedicate mile 4 to her grandfather, LTC Walter P. Schlagel, who passed away earlier this year. During that mile, as I was thinking of him, I noticed I was running near a man carrying an American flag. I lost him after that mile and didn’t see him again during the race. I took it as a sign from Julie’s grandfather to keep pushing forward.
  • Kathy and Mike Cincotta – My wonderful, supportive, endlessly generous in-laws.
  • Kate and Joel Jackson – Another of my #3DayTweeps friends and an Atlanta running buddy. She swears she’s going to get me to run a full marathon with her soon.
  • James Lee – A friend of mine from graduate school. James is getting married this fall!
  • Pam and Sean McCormick – My mom’s youngest sister and her husband. Sean has recently started running too!
  • David and Laura Ostheimer – David is a long time colleague of my mom and he and his wife have been some of Mom’s strongest supporters over the years!
  • Claudia Reeves – My aunt on my Mom’s side. Claudia made her donation in honor of her friends “The Big Ladies”.
  • JT Shoemaker – A graduate school friend who is one of our rocks here in Atlanta. JT made his donation in honor of his mother Janet, a breast cancer survivor who has been incredibly kind and supportive of me throughout Mom’s journey.
  • And finally, Dr. Jonathon Wright, my Mom’s and Marcia’s long time oncologist at the ROC. Dr. Wright also sent me a lovely email about how tough and inspiring my mom has been as a patient. He has given my mom phenomenal care over the years and I will keep that email always.

I also would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my other donors, all of whom helped me to far surpass my fundraising goals: Anne Marie DeSimone, Dom Gambardella, Marsha and Dean Griswold, Jeff Kostusiak, Dawn Mazzanti (who was my first donor!), Jim McKeever, Jennifer and Bill Rabbitt, Faren Shear, and Laura Scholz and her husband Tim Long. This group represents a hodge podge of friends and family from all the various corners of my life. I am strengthened and inspired to keep running for more because of all of you and the wonderful mash up that is my life.

Closing Thoughts

Ultimately, this race and this fundraiser were phenomenal successes for me and have given me huge motivation to keep going with this type of “charity racing”. I can’t wait to get out there again for the AllState 13.1 half marathon this October, when I will be running for the American Cancer Society!

Victory!

Note: If you would like to see all of my pictures from the Publix Georgia Half Marathon, please click here. Also, as far as I know, the link is still active on the ROC website if you would still like to make a donation to this worthy cause!

Gone, But Never Forgotten

Friday, April 5th, 2013

I know that I still owe everyone a recap on my first half marathon and an update on the results of my Running for the ROC fundraiser. Those posts will be coming, soon. But tonight, I wanted to talk for a minute about Bridget Spence.

Bridget, featured in an ad for Komen for the Cure

Bridget was a member of my pink family. I never had the privilege of meeting Bridget, but as part of the extended 3 Day family, I felt like I knew her. I think a lot of us felt that way. She was so open and honest in her blog, My Big Girl Pants, it was hard not to feel like she was an old friend. Today, we all received word that after a long battle with breast cancer, Bridget passed away last night surrounded by those who truly did know and love her best.

Bridget’s cancer was similar to my mom’s. As similar as a cancer can be, I guess, when it strikes a woman in her early 60s and a young lady in her early 20s. Both of their cancers were/are HER2+, a protein marker that we didn’t even know was a thing until the last two decades. The discovery of HER2+ cancers quickly led to the development of Herceptin, the drug that both my mom and Bridget credited with extending their lives far beyond what used to be expected for Stage IV metastatic breast cancer.

Herceptin is a different kind of drug. The HER2 gene causes cells to express extremely high levels of cell surface receptors that promote improper, aggressive cell division. Herceptin is an antibody that gloms onto those receptors, effectively blocking them from promoting cell division. Unlike other chemo drugs, which interrupt universal cell division processes (and therefore target ALL dividing cells in the body, leading to those side effects that are commonly associated with cancer treatments), Herceptin only affects the cancer cells that are over-expressing these receptors. As a result, it is tolerable for far longer than most chemo drugs. My mom was on Herceptin for the entire first 18 months she was being treated and has been on it continuously since her cancer came back in early 2010. From what she wrote, Bridget was on it for most of her 6+ years of treatment. Herceptin is not a cure in and of itself. Instead, Herceptin keeps the cancer at bay so that individuals like Mom and Bridget can live their lives. Herceptin turns metastatic breast cancer into a chronic condition rather than an immediate death sentence.

Herceptin first gained FDA approval 15 years ago. That’s not that long ago, as far as biomedical breakthroughs go. But scientists aren’t generally the sort to be contented with one breakthrough. Herceptin isn’t perfect. So scientists and the organizations that fund them started asking “What’s next?”. And what was next is TDM-1. TDM-1 is a new drug that is a hybrid of two cancer drugs that we already had: Herceptin plus a super potent molecule of traditional chemotherapy. On its own, that chemo molecule is too damaging to be used in medical care, even for metastatic cancer. It just wouldn’t be tolerable at the doses you’d need to give to get full coverage of a cancer that has spread throughout the body. But! Stick that molecule of super chemo onto a Herceptin molecule, and it’s the equivalent of adding a honing device to missile. Suddenly, the chemo bomb is delivered directly to the cancer cells. That means that far less of the chemo needs to be given to have the same anti-cancer effect. All of the potency, relatively minimal cellular collateral damage. This is what a I truly believe is the future of chemotherapy. And because of Herceptin, HER2+ breast cancer is the first one to have a specific antibody-chemo conjugate that targets it.

TDM-1 was approved for use by the FDA on February 22nd, 2013, when it was rechristened “Kadcyla”. It was in clinical trials last summer when my mom was told that the current treatment she was on might be the last one available to her once her cancer outsmarted it. These last few months have been stressful, wondering what would happen first: would Mom’s cancer would wisen up to the taxotere she was taking and become resistant or would TDM-1 get approved? Thankfully, the clinical trials were successful and the FDA, recognizing the potential in TDM-1, expedited the approval just in time. Mom’s cancer hasn’t yet outsmarted the taxotere. But a few weeks ago, the taxotere outsmarted her lungs and caused significant fluid accumulation, making it unsustainable as a cancer treatment.

Mom will start Kadcyla in a few weeks, if not sooner. And because of Bridget, my mom knows what to expect of this brand new drug. That’s because brave, strong Bridget was in the clinical trials for TDM-1.

When your parent is diagnosed with cancer and you are told that it will be okay, because there are treatments available, you are relieved. You probably don’t give much thought to the people who came before you, who tried all of those experimental drugs and surgeries before we knew what they would do. When you’re told there may not be any more treatments available, it is terrifying. You are obsessed with the clinical trials: who’s in them, what are they experiencing, is it going to work???

You almost never get answers to those questions. Because of Bridget and her honesty, I did. And more importantly, my mom did. That kept Mom fighting so that she would be here for the day that TDM-1 became a reality for her. That’s why Mom is still here, feeling strong and optimistic about this next phase of treatment.

Bridget gave me the greatest gift I have, and probably will ever receive: more time with my mom. That is a priceless gift. In her final blog post back in December, Bridget asked that we not forget her. I know that I absolutely never will.

When I Ran for the ROC at the Publix Half Marathon in March, I dedicated one of my miles to Bridget, knowing that she had made the courageous decision to end her treatments. Tomorrow morning, I will run the Northwestern Mutual Road to the Final Four 5K benefitting the American Cancer Society’s Coaches vs Cancer program in Bridget’s name. It is the very least I can do to honor someone who has given me so much.

Running for the ROC!

Monday, March 4th, 2013

On March 17th, while the rest of the country is drinking green beer and celebrating whatever small percentage of Irish heritage they can claim, I will celebrate by running my first half marathon – the Georgia Publix Half Marathon – 13.10 miles in honor of my mother and her ongoing, inspiring fight against Stupid Cancer.

Since her breast cancer diagnosis in 2007 and recurrence of Stupid Cancer in early 2010, my mom has received the majority of her treatments from the phenomenal team at the Upstate Medical University Regional Oncology Center (ROC) in Syracuse, New York.

In appreciation for the wonderful care my mom has received, I am dedicating this half marathon to the Upstate ROC team and raising funds to support the Give Hope a New Home capital campaign to build a new Upstate Cancer Center. Opening in spring 2014, this state-of-the-art outpatient facility will expand and improve care and services to cancer patients like my mom, my best friend’s mom, Marcia, who passed away from breast cancer in 2009, and adults and children throughout upstate New York.

My goal is to raise at least $1,000 by the end of March. Here a few ways to support me:

  • Donate $100 or more (yourself or with others), and I will dedicate a mile of my race to whomever you would like. I will recognize them here on my personal website (www.kristencincotta.com/tag/Run4Roc) and wear their name on my race shirt. I am reserving the first mile for Marcia and the last mile for my mom. That means there are 11 miles up grabs!
  • Donate per mile: $13.10 ($1/mile), $26.20 ($2/mile), $52.40 ($4/mile), $104.80 ($8/mile – also lets you dedicate a mile!), or any other multiple of 13.1. I am going to finish!
  • Use your donation as motivation for me to run faster: donate a dollar amount for every minute I run under 2 hours and 30 minutes (my goal time.) For example, if you pledge $5 per minute under goal time and I finish in 2:18, you would come back to this site the week after the race (March 18th) and donate $60. If you want to go this route, let me know your pre-race pledge via email at kscincotta@gmail.com

You can make your donation in one of two ways. If you prefer the simplicity of donating online, simply click over to my fundraising page on the Foundation for  Upstate Medical University website, scroll to the bottom, and fill in your information. I promise, it’s all very legitimate and safe. However, ff you would prefer to mail in a check, please make your check payable to “Foundation for Upstate” and address it to:

Foundation for Upstate
750 East Adams Street
Syracuse, NY 13210

If you go this route, please be sure to write “Run4ROC” in the message area of the check so that it is recognized as being a part of my fundraising efforts. Please note that all donations (online and via mail) are 100% tax deductible.

This fundraiser is different than the fundraisers I’ve done in the past. There are no fundraising minimums required for my race entry and I’m not trying to earn any awards or prizes. I simply want to raise some money for a local organization that deserves our support. I’m so grateful for the high quality care that my mom has received from Upstate’s ROC team during her 6+ year battle with Stupid Cancer and I want to return the favor in my own way. My mom won’t be the last woman diagnosed with breast cancer. I can only hope that every woman is able to receive the cutting edge treatments and care that my mom has received from the team at the ROC.

Please join me in honoring her caregivers and helping to make the new Upstate Cancer Center a reality for cancer patients across upstate New York!

Some Thoughts on My Mom on this Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

If there is one thing that my mother always stressed to me growing up, it was the importance of education.  It is fitting, then, that the two things that I’ve learned that have most shaped who I am as an adult, I learned from watching my mom.

The first thing that I learned from my mom was how to be tough.  Mom doesn’t get enough credit for it, but she’s one tough lady.  She’s faced a lot in her life.  She was the second oldest of seven in a family that didn’t have a lot of money.  After graduating from SUNY Potsdam with a four year degree in English, Mom embarked on a winding career path that would ultimately include stints as a bank teller, computer programmer, FTZ administrator and finally, self-employed consultant.  At each step in her journey, Mom took advantage of every opportunity that was presented to her, always fighting for the next rung on the ladder of life.  She has started her own company not once, but twice.  When she felt that her original business partners weren’t acting in good faith, she stood up to them even when they brought a lawsuit against her.  Her current company, FTZ Consulting, has flourished as a result of her hard work and commitment to her clients.  You don’t get to be as successful as my mom without being tough and standing up for yourself when the situation calls for it.

Mom and I at Jen’s wedding in 2005

Mom isn’t just tough when it comes to her business.  Her strong convictions and determination are quintessential to her character outside of the office as well.  Nothing illustrates this better than how my Mom has conducted herself since first learning that she had an aggressive form of breast cancer in early 2007.  Over the course of the next 16 months, Mom battled through chemotherapy, surgery and radiation with a mental resiliency that is to be admired.  That July, we thought that her surgery was to be the end of her treatments.  When we learned that she would have to undergo almost another full year of chemo and radiation, Mom simply held her chin up high and did what had to be done.  Throughout her treatments, Mom was adamant that her “regular life” would not change.  She continued to work, often times alternating 20 minutes of work with 10 minutes of rest in her bed just to get through the day.  She also kept up her outside commitments, especially as a board member for the Center for the Arts in our hometown of Homer, New York.  Knowing what she dealt with over all those months, I am in awe of her strength.  She may not admit it, but Mom’s seriously tough.  Anyone that watched her over those endless months of treatments can attest to that.

The other thing that my mom has taught me is to get involved, especially with the causes that you really care about.  When I was younger, I was involved in everything.  I’m not kidding.  Girl scouts, softball, gymnastics, dance classes, school plays, marching band, choir… you name it, I was probably in it.  And if I wasn’t, my brother was.  My parents both felt that it was better to do things than to sit at home and I loved every minute of my busy life.  Alongside us at every turn were my parents.  I watched my mom volunteer for one thing after another, often in support of my interests and activities.  She coached my softball team, sorted marching band uniforms and served on various committees in our school district.  She worked at countless bake sales and concession stands during my gymnastics meets and marching band shows and she sewed too many dance costumes to count.  She is the only person I know that suffered a broken foot from over-enthusiastically pulling out our floor mat before a color guard competition.  Back then, most of Mom’s volunteer activities revolved around what my brother and I were doing.  Nowadays, Mom’s volunteer work is more focused on her own interests; namely, her work on the Board of Directors for the newly created Center for the Arts.  I can’t remember a time when my mom hasn’t been involved in some form of volunteer work, something that has had a huge impact on how I live my life today.

When my mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I knew I needed to do something.  I didn’t know what, but I knew I couldn’t just sit back and watch Mom fight this huge fight without doing something myself.  My childhood friend Mel, who had walked in the Boston 3 Day in 2006 had the answer almost instantly.  She called me up and without even asking me said “That’s it, I’m coming down there to Atlanta and we’re walking in the 3 Day together.  It will change your life and you need to do it.”  And I knew as soon as she said it that it was the right answer.  As I said before, volunteer work is something inherent to who I am as a result of watching my mom over the years.  To be able to advocate on behalf of cancer patients and the biomedical research community of which I am a part seemed like the perfect fit; a very real way for me to help not just my mom but countless men and women that would face cancer in the future as well.  Over the next few months, I followed Mom’s lead and learned a bit about just how tough I am.  I pushed through endless training walks by myself and raised over $8000 in that first year.  Along the way, I discovered my passion for scientific advocacy on behalf of scientists and patients everywhere, especially those undergoing treatment for cancer.  Conquering a challenge that requires mental and physical toughness while discovering a passion for volunteer work and philanthropy?  That first 3 Day walk truly proved to me that I am my mother’s daughter.

Mom and I at Opening Ceremonies for the 2007 Atlanta 3 Day

This year, my mom has once again had to dig deep into her reserves of toughness.  In January, we learned that my mom’s cancer had returned after less than two years in remission.  Pain in Mom’s hip led to a series of diagnostic scans and ultimately a biopsy that revealed cancerous lesions on her liver.  Chemotherapy started up again almost immediately.  The road since then has been up and down.  Throughout it all, Mom has remained strong in the face of uncertainty.  She is an inspiration for me about how one should respond to a truly difficult challenge.  When I am struggling to make it through that 57th mile, it will be thoughts of my mom’s strength in the face of something so much more daunting that will get me through.  This year, I am walking to honor the memory of Marcia, our team angel.  But it will be the lessons that I have learned from my mom that will truly carry me through those long 60 miles.

I love you Mom!  Thank you for everything you have done for me and for everything you have taught me, whether you were aware of it or not.  It has truly helped me to become the person that I am today!

Mom and I at the 2008 Atlanta 3 Day

If you would like to support me in honoring my Mom this year, I encourage you to donate to the Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure in my name by visiting my personal fundraising page here.

(PS – I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my propensity towards volunteerism and philanthropy has also been strongly inspired by my Dad.  But his story is for another day!) 

Emory University Relay for Life

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

This past Friday, my husband Mike and I laced up our sneakers and headed over to Emory University for the Relay for Life benefitting the American Cancer Society.

Welcome to the Relay for Life!

Mike and I arrived at Relay site around 7pm on Friday, April 9th.  After checking in, we spent some time exploring the event site to get the lay of the land.

Me with the Relay for Life banner.

For each Relay event, the track is lined with Luminaria that serve as lanterns to light the way through the night.  Luminaria can be purchased in the name of survivors and as a way to honor those that have been lost to cancer.  Prior to this walk, I dedicated a special gold Luminaria in Marcia’s name and a regular white Luminaria in honor of my mom who is currently fighting cancer for the second time.  One of the first things we did upon arriving at the Relay for Life was to locate the Luminaria for Mom and Marcia.


Luminaria for Marcia and Mom

At the Emory Relay for Life, Luminaria were also used to spell out “HOPE” in the stands over the track where the event was held.

Hope for a cure!

Shortly after we arrived, the Relay for Life began.  The first lap was led by a number of survivors with the rest of the participants following behind.  We joined in the group after they passed us by and began our walk around the track.

The Survivor Lap, led by cancer survivors and the Emory Eagle!

Mike and I weren’t able to spend the entire night participating in the Relay for Life, as would normally be tradition.  However, we wanted to participate in a significant way, so we instead completed my eight mile training walk for the Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure.  All together, that amounted to about 32 laps of the track and over two hours of walking, around and around and around…  Luckily, there were a lot of things to look at as we walked:


The track was surrounded by campsites (for those staying the whole night, L) and tables where groups were selling snacks to the Relayers to help raise additional money for the American Cancer Society (R)

There were also signs highlighting some of the work of the American Cancer Society.  This sign was particularly meaningful since Herceptin has been Mom’s wonder drug during her cancer treatments!

Just after sunset, a series of performers took to the stage at one end of the track to provide entertainment for all of the Relayers.  During this performance, three separate dance groups performed.


Dance groups performing at the Relay for Life.  Pardon the poor photo quality, it was pretty dark.

Finally, at around 9:30pm the lights on the track were lowered so that the only thing that we could see was the light of Luminarias all around the track.  All of the Relayers then walked a silent lap around the track to honor those that have been lost to cancer.  As it happened, this lap corresponded to the last lap of the eight miles that Mike and I walked.  As we walked that last lap, I couldn’t help but think of Marcia and how different this Friday night was then the awful night exactly one year ago when we learned of her passing.  It ended up being an incredibly meaningful moment that really made the night for me.


The beautiful lights of the Luminarias

Being able to do this event, on this night, was a great way for me to honor and remember Marcia in my own way.  Some day, I hope to be able to stay over night and experience the full event.  But for me, this event was everything that I needed it to be.

To see more pictures from the Emory University Relay for Life, please visit this album on my Picasa page.