Those two words. Pancreatic Cancer. It causes this sinking feeling every time I hear someone has been diagnosed. I lost my Uncle Russel Weston in April 2001 and my first boss Sandie Platt in April 2010 to pancreatic cancer. We were so very lucky when it came to my uncle’s treatment at Mayo Clinic and were extremely blessed to have him longer than we ever expected after the initial diagnosis. Knowing how quickly Pancreatic Cancer worked, being told about Sandie’s diagnosis instantly felt like a loss. Sandie gave me my first teaching job; she is the reason I became a school administrator. But even more she was like a mom to me and so many who worked with her. She believed in her staff; she believed in me.
When I asked Sandie to sign my grad school application she bluntly told me she expected more from me than the major I'd chosen. She pushed me to re-think where my life and career were going - and she was right. Because of her I made a decision that now allows me to impact students in more ways than I had ever imagined possible. All because she was the kind of principal who believed in her teachers and truly cared, and it doesn’t hurt that she would always tell you how it was. Sandie was the kind of leader I work to be every day, and I hope at the end of my career I have at least one person who talks about me the way we do about her. I wish I could say I told her some of this, that she knew how much she meant to me. But I can’t.
I stood outside her office door, heartbroken, and wanting to tell her how much she meant to me. Her secretary, urged me to go in. Instead I said I would do it another day. I didn’t want to upset her, or ruin what might be a good day.
I never had another chance.
That sentence is a lot to unpack. I have hesitated twice in my life, and both times left me with a regret that unfortunately will never completely heal. It has been a hard lesson to learn, we are never guaranteed tomorrow whether it is ours or someone else's.
April 2020 will mark 10 years without Sandie and 19 years without my Uncle Russel. This year I want moments when those two words don’t cause that sinking feeling or the sting of regret and sadness. I want to be part of something bigger than sadness, a diagnosis, Pancreatic CANCER. There can be so much joy in exchanging those happy moments and cherished memories with others who have lost loved ones. Helping each other keep our loved ones’ legacies alive. This year I want my 26.2 miles to be about survival, hope, and healing. To lift those up who are fighting, support those who are in the midst of grief, and be a part of finding a cure.