On my 32nd birthday in 2015, I ran 32 miles. They say that you should try to do hard things - things you're not 100% sure you'll be able to do. I've never been a fast runner, and at that point my farthest distance had been a marathon. But on 9/17/15, I ran 32 miles, just to say I had done it. No FKT, but definitely an FJR (Farthest Joel Ran).
Just 8 weeks later, I was diagnosed with stage IV fibromixoid sarcoma - a rare cancer that had originated in my leg and was now coating my lungs. There was no known treatment and no known cure. Doctors initially told me that since there is no treatment for this cancer, the best they could do was just make me “comfortable.” Six months of aggressive chemotherapy and a lung surgery put running on a cold back burner.
Later, my sarcoma specialist told me about a 5k race for sarcoma research. As fate would have it, it was scheduled on my birthday! I was sick of being “comfortable.” I wanted to heal, even if I couldn’t be cured. Before I knew it, an entire team was rallied around my family to run this race, complete with matching #bringbackthebeard shirts. That event kick-started my renewed focus on what Justin Grunewald would eventually describe to me as “relentless forward progress.” Since then, I’ve found that the more I open up, the more fighters I meet.
And I’ve met some of the best fighters while running with Team Brave Like Gabe...
I ran the New York City Marathon with (and thanks to) my wife, who has shown at every corner that love is the light that guides us through the darkness that comes in the shadow of cancer. I ran the LA marathon with an army of Brave Like Gabe runners, led by Phil Shin, whose place in the fight continues even after beating cancer.
On 10/10/20 (updated from 9/19/20 due to wildfires), I’m going to try running my age again. Thirty-seven miles this time, each one with gratitude to and in honor of Gabe Grunewald, whose commitment to ramping up the fight against rare cancers sent a ripple into the universe that forever altered the course of my life. The goal is simple, yet high: $3,700. But the stakes are even higher: rare cancer patients need research. In the meantime, we run on hope.
With your donation, Brave Like Gabe will empower more rare cancer patients to get out and be active while funding the much-needed research that will help make it so that fewer patients are told that there is no treatment and no cure. Please consider joining Brave Like Gabe in #RunningOnHope. More info on my Instagram: @hey_mr_stetler
EXCITING NEWS: INCENTIVES! Our friends at Clif Bar have also joined in the effort by donating cases of their latest product line and merchandise to be given to anyone who made a donation of $50 or more before 9/30/20 (now closed)! In addition, all donors will be entered into a drawing to win a year’s supply of Clif Bars*!
Additionally, Our friends at SPIbelt have graciously given 10 belts** to be awarded randomly to donors of any amount.
* The one-year Cliff Bar supply will be a one-time shipment of 365 assorted bars.
** The belts awarded will be the Original SPIbelt Black with Black zipper.