Let me put it out there: there have been break-downs. There have been days that I wanted to call it a quits a few miles early or moments when I felt pangs of homesickness, but those have been pretty few and far between. I know that there is an end date and a finish line, and those two things alone make it easy to get through each and every day of this adventure. Add to it the fact that I have met incredible people along the way, have my buddy and savior Sydney with me, and have Jill as my inspiration every day, and it’s even easier to keep my eyes on the prize. That said, there are moments that literally stop me, hands on my knees and tears in my eyes when I remember why, exactly, I am running across the country. When that young, beautiful, strong girl with clammy hands, forever stunted fingernails, and razor sharp teeth left this world, we lost someone incredibly special. She was special to so many in very unique ways and the pain of that loss can sometimes overwhelm me at an unexpected moment.
Especially over the last month, since Sydney's and my routine has become so consistent, (our routine outlined here, in case you missed that post) it has been easy to think less about the reason that I am doing this run: to honor my friend Jill and to beat lung cancer. It is in the moments when I have allowed myself to truly remember Jill and that I am far from being the only one who lost her, that I have become weak in the knees and shed a tear or two ten. These moments are sad, sure, but I'm not trying to elicit sympathy or make you feel sorry for me. Mostly, because I am not the only one who loved and lost her and what often pains me is thinking about how the rest of her loved ones - parents, family, and friends, also go through each day without her. When we lose someone we sometimes catch ourselves remembering that we are sad at inopportune times. That we miss that person immensely, and that we cannot figure out how or why they are simply, physically gone. In many ways I am grateful for these moments because they mean that I can still picture Jill vividly and that my memory of her is still so close to the surface; that while she may be gone, our collective memories of her keep her around -that giggly, curious, active girl we all grew to love so, so much.
In all other aspects, and throughout almost the entire run thus far, I have been pretty positive. I believed that it would all work out and it largely has. I believed that people would be supportive and they have. I believed that it would garner some new attention for lung cancer and it has. But, I have to admit, somewhere in Indiana a terrifying thought occurred to me. It is the only other thing, aside from those overwhelming memories of Jill and our combined loss, that has caused me to cry on the side of the road. Somewhere just before Louisville, KY, my mind was wandering as usual when I suddenly thought, “what if nothing changes after this run? What if no one really pays attention and this run has no impact whatsoever on the future of lung cancer? What if I fail Jill by not making people care enough?” I stopped in my tracks. It was the first time I really allowed myself to think that the Great Lung Run might not "succeed". Luckily, I have incredible people around me who buoyed me back from the bottom and reminded me that we were already reaching new people and providing great education about lung cancer. I have my parents and my extremely wise older sister to thank for quickly reestablishing my positive outlook.
The point is, difficult things happen in life. We lose people we love, we endure life's challenges, we go through tough times, and sometimes, we just have to cry or scream or whatever. The important thing is that we acknowledge these moments, take a deep breath, and then remember the bigger picture: to get the word out about lung cancer BIG TIME, and to beat lung cancer for everyone.