I wasn’t prepared for today.
I was running late. Forgot my bib number at home. And I had to have an almost-naked-husband who was getting ready to take his morning shower, jump in his car to drive it 30 minutes to me at the starting line of the race. Of course, while he was frantically putting his clothes back on, the toddler pooped his diaper and the dog had escaped from the house.
Time was ticking, and I was beginning to think running this 10K was a bad, bad, bad idea.
Jorge and I finally met up, and like a good movie drug deal, my husband slowly rolled his car up along side me, rolled down his window, handed my running bib out the driver side window, and kept rollin’ by. Little did I know, just 2 minutes later, the toddler would puke up an entire morning’s worth of milk into the car that my husband just had detailed.
This was going to be a bad, bad, bad idea.
I made it to the starting line with just 4 minutes to spare. I caught up with my brother, who unfortunately was having a bad morning himself, and we were ready to run. “Here Liza, I have some extra energy gels, you want one?” Crap. Energy gels? I hadn’t even packed myself anything for the run.
3 minutes and 36 seconds into the run, my iPod began repeating the same song I had on. I tried to adjust it, pinched myself (which I have a lovely bruise now on the inside of my turkey-waddle arm), and spent the next hour trying to run and adjust my music.
What was I doing out here on this course?
I was trying to prove something to myself. That’s what.
I was trying to prove that I was strong, that I was ready, and that I was able to keep conquering the odds that were stacked against me. With a 60% risk of ovarian cancer, it was time for me to get control of my new body — my reconstructed body — and focus on the next step of my life: removing my ovaries.
Removing my ovaries forces my body into surgical menopause. Given that I have a good 50+ years still in me, my body will begin to age like that of a post-menopausal woman. I’ll be at greater risk for osteoporosis, will feel decreases in anything that my hormones regulate, and, well, lots of other stuff. So, it’s in my best interest to build a strong body, to keep my bones healthy, and to try and lose weight. The excess weight increases the side effects, and I need to focus on that part of my health, too.
But, it was actually never the running I was worried about — I was worried about my chest muscles. Every time I have tried to run post-surgery, my chest fired up in pain. The repeat back-and-forth motion of my arms as I pumped always resulted in a pulled, sharp pain in my muscles.
Early in the race, I happened to see a colleague of mine from work. Just like me, she was slow and steady. And, just like me, she was experiencing a very emotional and spiritual journey on this run.
We went back and forth with each other — one pulling ahead and then the other. When we found a moment to catch up with one another, she said to me, “Liza, I was really having a hard time. Then, I prayed to Henry (a student we both lost to leukemia a few weeks ago). I asked him to be with me, and to help me, and to give me strength. That was when you ran up beside me for the first time and squeezed my hand. I needed someone, and he sent you.”
Her words took my breath away, and I fought back tears.
I needed to hear those words at that exact moment. It wasn’t chance.
“God puts us where God needs us most,” I said.
It was at that moment that the run, the race, and the heat transformed. I stopped focusing on how bad it felt to be out there and began focusing on how privileged I was to be there, in that moment. I was truly Blessed to be able to save my life, to reduce my risk of cancer, and to recover. I was truly so privileged to be out there on that race course, feeling the burn in my legs, the air flow into my chest, and the sun warming my skin.
When I hit the wall at around mile 4, I thought of my friends who have passed from cancer, and my daughter’s friends who are still battling it today. I thought of the survivors I have known who, too, know what life is worth these days. And, of course, I pictured myself racing against cancer, racing against time, and racing against my odds.
By the time I reached the turn into the stadium, I was exhausted. My body had enough. But, my heart was full, my mind was at peace, and my soul was being carried by all those who inspire me along the way.
I registered for the race back in March to prove something to myself. But, today, my Self proved something to me. I learned that it’s never about the End. It’s never about the Finish. It’s about where you need to be on the road. It’s about where you need to be when other people need you most.
Peace, love, and being at the right place,