This past weekend my family and several friends participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Over 40,000 people participated in the event, which seeks to raise funds for breast cancer patients, help with their treatments and, hopefully, find a cure for breast cancer.
It was an amazing day. Everyone was decked out in pink to support the cause; there was free Starbucks – the list of awesomeness goes on and on. I was surrounded by my kids and my family, and I felt inspired and loved, even in the middle of the race when my 3-year-old had a meltdown over spilled orange juice.
At the end of the race, I was struck by something. As I looked around at the massive crowd, I began to think about how each of these people had made their donation to participate in the race, and that this is just one of a hundred races Komen will hold globally, and that Komen’s been doing them for 28 years. I kept coming back to one nagging thought, “All this, and I still got cancer. How? Why?”
The “hows” and the “whys” of my cancer are elusive and dangerous topics for me. I catch myself getting lost in the thoughts of the randomness of my disease. I‘ll be sitting in the chemo chair receiving treatment, mindlessly flipping through the pages of some trashy magazine, and become fixated on trying to understand why I’m sitting there while Kim Kardashian is sitting by a pool in Miami. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not wishing cancer upon Ms. Kardashian, and I’m sure she’s a perfectly lovely girl, but something about the image of her enjoying a beautiful sunny day at a Five Star resort while I’m having toxins pumped into my veins makes me feel a little crazy. Why me? Why not her? Or that guy? Or anyone else I bump into at the grocery store? And why my good friend David, who lost his battle with melanoma almost two years ago? He was a larger-than-life man who could energize a room with his presence. He had a wife and two boys to whom he was completely devoted. I want to try and find the pattern in all the randomness in an effort to understand it all. Sometimes I feel like if I could understand the reason I have cancer, then somehow it will put my mind at peace, maybe make all the pain I’ve experienced a little less painful. Perhaps if I knew the answers, I wouldn’t lay awake at night worrying about my baby girl, and if this will happen to her some day.
The more I consider these questions, the further away I seem to get from the answers. I lean on my faith, and the kind words of friends and strangers who all say, “You’re going to beat this thing.” As I was writing this, I was reminded of a conversation I once had with my friend David. We used to run triathlons together, and I was really nervous about an upcoming event. By this point in his life, David had been diagnosed and treated, and defeated cancer twice already, so he had a unique perspective on life. He told me, “Just run your race, Jen. Don’t worry about how anyone else is running. Run your race for you, and you’ll be just fine.” And when I think of those words, I suppose they hold an answer for me that is as good as any I can find. Maybe the important thing isn’t the how or the why, but the here and the now. The truly important thing is to fight and beat this disease. To “run my race,” and if I focus on that, it really doesn’t matter how or why it happened to me.