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Seventeen years ago, I set out to complete my first marathon.
I had two kids -- ages 4 and 2 -- and another on the way.
I've never been a great runner, but I know that I can walk.
And so, when I learned I could walk the Chicago Marathon -- raising funds along the way -- I knew I had to do it for someone that I loved.
At the time, our family friend, Kaelan Madison, was battling childhood leukemia. He was a courageous, hilarious, remarkable soul, the best friend to one of my children.
For six months leading up to the race, I worked with The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team In Training, and thanks to the generosity of those who heard and connected with Kaelan's story, we raised $2000 for the organization before the race on October 13, 2002.
On that chilly morning, I set out with certainty that I'd cross the finish line. My family cheered from the sidelines and I felt on top of the world -- until I reached the 15-mile mark.
Walkers are naturally in the back of the pack in marathons. As such, I'd been watching race officials systematically shutting down and collecting the portable restrooms after all the runners came through. I hadn't even thought about that! As a pregnant woman -- without restrooms to use along the way -- I was going to have to stop, because when you're expecting, your baby rides piggy-back on your bladder.
When I made the decision, I was tired, cold and utterly defeated. I felt like I'd failed to complete what I'd set out to do, and guilty for dragging my loved ones out on such a cold and crowded day.
As we all stepped into a building to warm up, my sister, Beth, wrapped her scarf around me, and reminded me that no effort is ever a failure.
Then, she then insisted I put on her jeans to warm up.
"That's ridiculous and gross," I said, near tears and shivering. "My shorts are all sweaty -- and it's freezing outside.
But she wouldn't take no for an answer.
She followed me into the ladies' room, took the stall next to mine, and passed her jeans under the divider. "Give me your shorts. Now," she said. "It's too cold for me to walk around in my underwear."
Once again, I'm training for the Chicago Marathon, and once again, I plan to walk the course, more determined than ever to FINISH.
During my training, I'll walk 514 miles before race day on October 13, 2019.
I'm training with Team Lynn Sage, raising funds for the Lynn Sage Foundation, because 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.
1 in 8 mothers, daughters, friends, and neighbors. 1 in 8 teachers and co-workers. 1 in 8 sisters.
The Lynn Sage Foundation partners with Northwestern and Rush Universities to provide seed funding through the Lynn Sage Scholars Program, knowing that research is the best way to improve the lives of those diagosed. Since 2007, they've invested over $1.6 million in innovative research, with the goal of eradicating the disease. Donations to my efforts will directly support breast cancer research in Chicago. The Lynn Sage Scholars research is focused on better prevention, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.
I haven't been touched by breast cancer myself, though I have found two suspicious lumps and experienced the fear and uncertainty that follows. I previously wrote about one of those times here.
More importantly, I have too many friends and loved ones who've faced breast cancer diagnoses.
Just as I shared Kaelan's cancer story 17 years ago, I'll share friends' and loved ones' stories about breast cancer here, hopefully raising awareness and inspiring others to keep going.
And though Kaelan and my sister have both since passed, they will both be in my heart when I cross that finish line.
Thank YOU for being here. It inspires me to keep moving forward.
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