Two nights ago, I watched the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony along with more than 31 million Americans. I felt a sense of pride during the commercials that highlighted our current American athletes training for this year's Olympics and former Olympians receiving medals for their athletic feats. I am not an Olympic athlete; I spent more time as a cancer kid in remission in the library than in the gym. But, I admire the focus, the dedication, the setbacks, the hard work, the sacrifice, and the moments leading up to those final steps across the finish line. And while watching the Olympics, I am reminded of the moment I earned my first half marathon race medal after running the Disneyland half marathon less than one year ago.
When I approached the finish line on Sept. 1, 2013, I literally started hyperventilating. In a matter of seconds, I held my breath as I remembered the deep sadness and fear I felt when I was told that I had cancer in March 2011. I remembered the flash-forward nightmares of every moment of my then 3-year-old daughter's life that I would miss. I remembered the Easter weeks stuck in limbo waiting for a drug trial approval to receive life saving chemotherapy treatment. I remembered the day before surgery in April 2012 when I took a quiet bath and prayed to God for guidance for my surgical team and peace for my family and friends. And I remembered the moment at UCLA when I was cognizant of the surgeon's words: Only one tumor; not metastatic; clear margins.
In that moment when I crossed the finish line, life stood still. I really had made it through all of that alive. My daughter, my husband, my nieces, and my brother-in-law were waiting for my sister and I with open arms. It was time to breathe.
During the five months since I have crossed that finish line, I ran another 13.1 miles in San Francisco and raised more than a combined $15,000 for various cancer-related charities, including Camp Kesem, The Art of Elysium, and LA Loves Alex's Lemonade Stand. I am training for another 13.1 with the Nike Women's Washington, D.C. Half Marathon, raising funds and awareness with Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. On April 27, I will run to celebrate two years cancer-free and the many opportunities I have had and continue to have to make a difference.
My daughter, who turned 6 years old today, asked if we could go to the capitol. I told her about our congressman Henry Waxman, who announced his retirement at the end of January. I have followed Congressman Waxman's career and attended town hall meetings in my district. I appreciate his dedicated work on the Affordable Care Act that has allowed me to keep my insurance coverage and continue my targeted adjuvant chemotherapy treatment. And I value the protection of patient information for which he has fought so that my daughter's future is not prejudiced by my medical history.
Tonight, before she fell asleep, my daughter asked me if she could also meet Malia and Sasha, "you know, Mom, in the White House." I told her I wasn't sure if they will be up at 7 a.m. for the half marathon, but I promised her that we could waive to them when I cross the finish line after my 13.1 miles.
Follow Barbi Appelquist on Twitter: www.twitter.com/appelgardner