I had signed up for the race in April, thinking it would be a good motivation for me to start running again. That was a joke. I was barely running. Signing up for a race only meant I was barely running AND out $65. But then summer rolled around and I had some more time on my hands, so every few days I would go for a walk. Then a jog now and then. And then eventually, I just started running again. But it wasn’t far and it DEFINITELY wasn’t fast. And it wasn’t consistent. By August, I was supposed to run the Wildwood Half-Marathon, but had only been running about 8-10 miles a WEEK at that point. So, I bagged that race. While I was down the shore, lamenting on my inability to get my shit together and just friggen run, I had a major awakening. Major.
I have a friend Jessica who I have known since high school. We had some classes together but we really weren't close until our senior year when we roomed together on a trip to England. Although we hadn't gotten close until then, everyone knew Jessica. Jess was the girl with Cystic Fibrosis. She was the one too sick to come to school for days at a time. She was the one so sick over break our junior year, she spent weeks at CHOP and the class took a bus trip to visit her. She was the one in England who had a lot more to pack than just clothes. I remember being legit stunned at how much medication she needed on a daily basis. But man, Jessica lived life. She definitely didn't let CF hold her back. (For those who don't know, CF is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system.)
After high school we stayed in touch if we saw each other but it wasn't until Facebook that we really reconnected. The best part about getting back in touch was that I found out she was going to be getting a double lung transplant. And thank God too, because by the time of her transplant, Jessica was a very, very sick girl. Simple tasks like getting out of bed were simply too much. The surgery was successful and life completely changed for Jess. Yeah for new lungs! By the time our 10 year high school reunion rolled around, Jessica was two months post surgery and looking and feeling fabulous. The transplant worked! After the reunion, we definitely got closer. We talked often, usually emailing back and forth since we lived in different states. And then came the bad news. This past Spring after only 2.5 years with her new lungs, Jessica began to experience rejection symptoms. And the report was not good. Rejection. Double rejection. You see, a lung transplant does not cure CF because the defective gene that causes the disease is in all of the cells in the body, not just in the lungs. While a transplant does give a person with CF a new set of lungs, the rest of the cells in the body still have the CF and may already be damaged by the disease. And for Jessica, it was not a slow moving decline. By the end of summer, doctors determined she was too sick to undergo another transplant. There would be no new lungs.
There...would...be...no...new...lungs. I don't have to tell you what that means for Jessica.
END BACK STORY]
So here I am at the shore that hot day in August. And it just hits me like a ton of bricks. I have lungs that want to breathe and legs that can run and I better get with the damn program. Because there are too many Jessica’s out there. Too many people who would love to run and can’t. It was time to woman up and run. I ran the very next day. And the next weekend. And slowly, I got began to feel it again. How it feels to feel good running! The training was brutal…and not near what it should have been, but come hell or high water I was running that race for Jessica. And by running for Jessica, that is exactly what I mean. I started up a page to raise money for The Lung Transplant Foundation (Jessica’s choice) and began telling her story. She was my reason for running. I would run for her.
Before I knew it, it was November. I was far under-trained, my nutrition plan was laughable and I was really unsure of how this race would unfold. But, I was going to finish. Fittingly, the night before the race was a Beef and Beer for Jessica, an event I was NOT going to miss. So it meant a late night…I mean, I wasn’t trained anyway, right! It was a great night and I got to spend time with Jessica and it was totally worth it. Between my mom and I, we also won six baskets- BONUS While the reason we were there permeated through the night, spirits were high and it was exactly what I needed the night before the race.
I don’t need to go into a detailed race report. I’ll just say this: the first 8 miles, I was having the race of my life. Then my joke of a nutrition plan started its backfire on me, GU decided it did not in fact get along with my intestinal tract and my stomach interfered with my amazing race. The last 5.1 miles were a brutal mix of walking, stopping and using way too many portal-pottys. But nothing was going to keep me from that finish line. I cried a lot…it was physically painful and emotional. I just knew I could not stop. And, many minutes later than I would have liked, I crossed the finish line. For Jessica.
The first thing I did was email her to let her know I finished! And she emailed me back to say she was proud of me. She was proud of me! She fights for every breath. I am simply in awe of her spirit, grace and inner fight.
I wish there was more I could do than run a race and raise $1,950 for her foundation of choice. But all I can do is share her story. Make people aware of the importance of supporting foundations that are often overlooked. Lung transplantation is a relatively rare procedure and this area receives little research support from National Institutes of Health or any disease-specific research foundation. Currently, the Lung Transplant Foundation is researching treatments for chronic lung rejection, but there is no cure. There. Is. No. Cure. Jessica is still fighting. But there are more bad days than good. And, I know what that means. You know what it means. She knows what it means.
Jessica and I at our reunion.
I won’t make this part long. Here is the link to the page http://www.gofundme.com/1a3cig
I am trying to raise a total of $3,000 in her name to the Lung Transplant Foundation. I can’t let myself stop just because the race is over. The race is over, but her fight isn’t and neither is mine.