There are moments in an organizations year when it truly lives out its mission. Outrunning Cancer is one of those weekends for Hope Scarves.
This effort grew from my own personal love of running and wellness. The idea of gathering people together to take on a marathon while also raising money and awareness for Hope Scarves was a dream come true for this social entrepreneur. What started with a lofty goal of $10,000 has grown in our 7th year to 107 runners raising over $72,000. But, the numbers aren’t the story.
There were hundreds of stories running the streets of Louisville. One of them is of four strong women facing metastatic breast cancer and, how they took on the 1/2 marathon, 13.1 miles of pure determination.
For Carol, outrunning cancer was her 51st 1/2 marathon! Just noodle on that for a moment. She is also the founder of a group called MET Athletes creating community and support for athletes facing advanced cancer. When she was diagnosed she looked for others like her who were living well with stage 4 cancer. They were hard to find… but when she did, she created a group to help us find each other … over 2 years it has grown to over 20 people. Members include women with stage 4 breast cancer who completed the 2018 and 2019 Boston Marathons, one who is swimming across lakes to raise awareness and funds, and triathletes. When Carol learned about outrunning cancer she knew it had to be added to her list of 2019 races. She traveled from Cleveland to participate and proudly wore a purple Derby hat to match this year’s outrunning cancer shirt. I was honored to meet her and thanked her for creating a group that has brought me connection and hope as I too seek to live well with stage 4 breast cancer.
Gretchen, 2.5 years into her MBC diagnosis, destroyed the course with a personal record of 1:53. That’s a smokin’ fast 8:30 minute mile pace. Talk about outrunning cancer! Gretchen is a periodontist and loves to travel and spend time with her husband and her sweet fur child, Winnie. When asked why she is outrunning cancer Gretchen shares, “I feel like I am truly OUTrunning the cancer. It’s not outrunning me! I feel empowered. It also makes me incredibly grateful that my body is able to run. I am proud to be part of the team to support Hope Scarves an amazing organization that raises money for metastatic breast cancer research. It is also a wonderful way to support others that are navigating through their cancer journey.”
The third metastatic breast cancer survivor on the team is Robin. Robin has run many marathons and long distance endurance races over the years. She was the honorary team captain for the 2017 Outrunning Cancer team. A physical therapist by training her body was a machine, churning out the miles. Until it couldn’t. Robin’s treatments have weakened her body. But, her spirit is fierce. She was out on the course at mile 6 with a harmonica cheering on the runners – knowing exactly what they needed to hear. When I saw her my legs felt lighter. I know how badly she would love to be out there kicking my slow bootie on the course. But, instead her dad and sister walked the 13.1 miles in her honor. She made her way around the course cheering them on and was at the finish line to celebrate their accomplishment. I have never heard a cross word from Robin. As she endures harsh chemo, full brain radiation, steroids & pain… her light shines. Always quick with a joke, when her family joined us for the Kick off Open House she introduced me to her sister and her new wig, Paula. To know Robin is to adore her. I’m grateful she is part of our team and we’ll cheer each other on – always.
And there was me- the 4th MBC patient. With about 1 liter of fluid surrounding my left lung I set out to run as much as I could. Giving myself grace to not worry about the time or the pace. I had no idea how that was going to go… but, it went amazingly well! I found a slow, comfortable pace and settled in with the steady rhythm of my feet on the pavement and the pounding of my heart. More than any other year, each step filled me with gratitude. And, I ran! Almost all of the 13.1 miles! Taking breaks to walk at the water stops and when my breathing became too labored, but for the most part… I ran! Surrounded by my friends- Laura, Angie and Kay. When we hit mile 11 (the hardest mile in a 1/2 marathon in my opinion) I ran for those who couldn’t – I ran for Emily and Erin, Sandra, Kristen and Mary Ann. I turned on “It’s always darkest before the dawn” by Florence and the Machine and I ran for all the people living in darkness and fear. I ran to bring light to my own darkness.
As I made that final left turn to the finish – I felt like I was flying. I put may arms out to each side and soared. Tears streaming down my face, a felt the strength in my legs, the beating of my heart, the joy in my life. The gratitude for this moment overcame me and I just starting sprinting… I didn’t want this moment to end. I felt so strong. So alive. As I crossed the finish line, I knew this was just one finish line in a much longer race.
Each of our 107 runners has a story. We ran for friends, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandmas and friends. We ran to raise money for metastatic breast cancer research.
And, we laughed and celebrated life! On Friday, the Hope Scarves studio was bursting with love as we hosted nearly 100 runners and their families for a kickoff Open House. On Saturday after the race a sea of purple spread out over the charity village as runners reunited at our tent and shared stories. Hugs and laughter between old and new friends reinforcing our shared commitment to the simple message on each of our shirts “outrunning cancer.”
Outrunning Cancer has become a cornerstone to our year for good reason. This weekend reflects the feeling of our organization – togetherness, love, wellness, laughter and determination. We carry the energy of this weekend into everything we do, motivated by the 760 donors from 38 states who helped us reach our goal. (thank you if you were one of them!) Inspired by the runners who faced the miles and the stories that drove their determination.
There are miles to go… but on April 27th we outran cancer.
Today, May 7th, I’m aiming for a different finish line. I can barely get off the couch. I have a terrible head cold and complete exhaustion driven by the new chemo I’m on. I haven’t felt this tired in years. Today’s finish line is making dinner (who am I kidding… ordering dinner) and getting the kids to bed. Every day we are outliving – outhustling- outloving – outsleeping cancer. The race just looks a little different.
Thank you to all of our runners, donors, supporters and friends for making outrunning cancer possible.