August 23 2017
Jennifer Stahl shares how she gave herself permission to embrace running for speed instead of compliments.
Published with permission of Cure Today
As runners around the world start to taper in preparation for the Boston Marathon, my heart feels heavy. I have to hold back a swell of emotions and frankly, I have to tune out all of the conversations regarding the marathon. It hurts too much. Boston was my marathon. I went on my first date with my now husband there. I vowed I would run it some day. I would go on to conquer the full marathon and qualify for Boston at the same time. It was my date of destiny in 2015.
I ran this race last April knowing that something was not right with my body. I just knew. And so, I made my doctor appointment for a biopsy two days after the marathon. I refused to do it before my race day because I didn’t want it to affect my performance. I thought if I put it off, then I would be able to run my race and deal with everything else after. I never realized how much influence your mental state of mind can have on you physically. Those last 6 miles of the marathon were the hardest I ever ran, and though this is typical of a marathon, I now know this had more to do with what was going on in my head than anything else. It was like I knew that once this race ended, I would be facing far bigger challenges than some marathon. I was in complete agony, and it took everything out of me to just get to the finish line.
One week later, to the day, I went for a run and saw the call come in on my cell from my doctor. I knew my world was about to change. And so, the adventure of metastatic melanoma began. In a million years, I never knew a little skin cancer would result in a sizable tumor under the skin that metastasized to my lymph nodes. I had no idea I would go through three surgeries to remove the cancer and never thought my running would be taken away from me for more than 10 weeks. I never thought I would be the lucky one because I signed on to do an experimental surgery that, if successful, would lessen the recovery time and give me a better chance to be back out in my running shoes again.
Related: Watch Latest Trailer Of Boston Film
Right before going into this experimental surgery for my inguinal lymphadenectomy, the surgeon’s assistant was going through the normal pre-surgery procedure and then reminded me that if my surgeon was not able to be successful with the experimental surgery, she would change course and go with the older surgery that would bench me from running for some time, possibly forever. I remember looking her dead in the eye and telling her, “Nope, she knows I am runner. She’s got this. She’s going to get me back to the starting line.”
Looking back on all I have been through, I wonder if perhaps the past nine months of recovery have been my re-do of the last 6 miles of my marathon where I fell apart. But this time, I did not fall apart. This is time I got this. Though it has not been easy, and some days the pain is more than anyone could ever know, I am out there doing what I love. And even though the stories I will surely hear about this year’s Boston Marathon will be bittersweet, I will try to enjoy them and remind myself that I will be back at the starting line eventually.
Kate Beland does not believe that cancer defines her. She is an athlete, a marathoner, a mother, a wife and a writer. When she is not conducting her three-ring circus act, she is busy kicking late stage melanoma’s butt and keeping herself sane through her writing and running. See more on Facebook or at her blog.