Friday, October 10, 2008

Six Weeks til Race Day for Team CANCER to 5K

When I was diagnosed with Melanoma (Stage IIIA) at age 34, all I wanted to do was run. It was May 2005 in Northern VA and as I sat in the recliner in the chemo lounge at VA Hospital Center, 5 days a week for 4 weeks, I spent my time planning and plotting my workouts. The first week was great, I got up every morning and did a short run, 1-2 miles of easy jogging. I remembered thinking "If this is what chemo is like, this will be a breeze." That weekend, the full effects of 5 days of Interferon Alfa 2B brought my illusions to a screeching halt. I barely had the energy to walk around the block with my boyfriend.

Week Two started out better once my Onology Nurses and I found a good mix of hydration, tylenol and timing. I promised to slow down to walking most mornings, every other day, for as long as I was able (usually no more than a mile). It was a mile to the hospital from my house and my nurses would shake their head when I explained sheepishly that my pulse was a little high because I just walk to treatment. I officially became "that crazy girl Holly" on Week Two.

Week Three the walks were fewer because the truth was that I was sleeping more and having some trouble with my balance. Turns out my blood counts were too low, I got a day off from treatment and spent the day moping. It was beautiful outside and I wanted to run, walk, just get what little blood I had left flowing. I began to live vicariously through my friends. My girlfriend Keri would sit with me in treatment and tell me all about her latest race. I would listen intently until the benadryl kicked in and I would warn her "Keri, I think I am going to fall asleep..."

Week Four was the home stretch, after this week, I would graduate to self-injections of Interferon 3 times a week for the next 48 weeks. I spent those last 5 days in the chair - planning and plotting how I would convince my Oncologist that together he and I could get me to the start line of the 2005 Marine Corps Marathon. After all, I had registered back in March, long before cancer.

My Oncologist was a runner himself, and he made a deal with me. "You can train for the marathon but if there comes a day that your blood work tells me a different story, you'll stop running, no questions asked." We shook on it and for the next 5 months I ran when I could, walked when I had to and on October 30, 2005, I finished the Marine Corps Marathon in 6:07:33.

That was the day that the idea for the "CANCER to 5K program" was born. (
In May 2007, the Ulman Cancer Fund awarded me a Visionary Grant to help make my idea into a reality. The idea is a simple one: Lets offer 12 weeks of FREE training, entry into a local 5K race and a finishing medal to other young adult cancer suvivors, regardless of their current treatment status (with their Doctor's permission) so they can gain and/or maintain fitness, get some relief from the side effects of cancer treatments and focus on something else besides cancer.

Team CANCER to 5K - Ulman Fund's 10-THE RACE 5K, October 27, 2007

The program is growing and local survivors are reaping the benefits! One mile at at time...

In Fall 2007, we brought 2 runners and 12 volunteers to the Ulman 10-THE RACE 5K in Columbia, MD. Both Lance Armstrong and Doug Ulman became honorary members of the CANCER to 5K program on that day and received official finishing medals.

Team CANCER to 5K - Capital Crescent 5K, June 1, 2008

In Spring 2008, we grew again and did two 5K races. We had 2 runners and 8 volunteers run the Capitol Crescent 5K in Bethesda, MD and then we had 4 runners and over 14 volunteers running both distances of the Survivor Harbor 7 race (5K & 7 miles) in Baltimore, MD the next wekend. On that day, one of our survivors, Ben F., took 2nd place in the Open Men's Survivor category.

The Fall 2008 CANCER to 5K program got underway September 6th in spite of Tropical Storm Hannah's best attempts to stop us. This season's group of young adult cancer survivors is a great bunch! We have 7 cancer survivor's training with Coach Bob and our mighty group of volunteers (15 runners strong). We are halfway to the season and to race day, the VA Turkey Trot 5K in Centerville, VA, being held on November 27, 2008 (Thanksgiving Day). Just six weeks to go.

Team CANCER to 5K - Survivor Harbor 7 Race, June 8, 2008

All together at any given Tuesday or Saturday workout, there are between 15-20 of us running circles around the St. Stephen HS track (Tuesday Nights) and running along the Washington & Old Dominion/4-Mile Run Trail of Bluemont Park. (Saturday Mornings)

Maybe you have seen us, while on the W&OD trail in Northern VA? Several small groups of 4-5 runners each, varying paces - chatting away and running in the early morning. You'd know who we are if you have seen us at any races! Just look for the Bright Yellow and White and Neon CANCER to 5K shirts worn by our runners with BIG SMILES. If all else fails, listen closely ....You hear that COW BELL? YEP, that would be us! MORE COWBELL PLEASE!

We're just a bunch of young adult cancer survivors giving new meaning to the word ENDURANCE...One mile at a time.I'll be blogging weekly through race day so look out for Team CANCER to 5K updates exclusively here on the Ulman Cancer Fund Blog.

Holly Gannoe

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