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Francine Hardaway

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Life is an Ultra-Marathon (with Puddles)

Posted: 04/03/09 04:05 PM ET

My friend Brian was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma (rare soft tissue cancer) in February 2005. At the time, he was a marathon runner, a man with four kids and a great job. A happy guy who thought he was in the best shape he was ever in -- until the day he spat up blood. You have heard these stories before. Cancer turns your life around.

A month of tests and trauma later, Brian had a lobectomy to remove the lung lobe with the tumor. If you had read the statistics on his form of cancer, you would have thought he'd be dead by now. But he chose to live. Truthfully, I think his power to choose, which we all have, contributed to his survival.

That survival involved a wretched course of chemotherapy from May through July, 2005, very similar to Lance Armstrong's chemo regimen. One week Brian had to check into the hospital for 24x7 chemo, followed by two weeks off to recover. Chemo is very toxic and debilitating. His continued for four cycles.

While his friends, wife and kids worried about his mortality, Brian began to train, and during
the fourth and final cycle of chemo, he organized the Box of Chocolates Marathon, to benefit sarcoma research. He told us if we would all donate, he would walk a marathon in the hospital. (The Box of Chocolates Marathon got its name from the box of chocolates in the movie "Forrest Gump.") I thought he was 1) out of his mind, 2) incredibly brave, and 3) a dreamer. I hedged my bet by donating, though.

Brian literally walked 144 laps around the hospital oncology ward (26.2 miles) while connected to his chemo IV cart. He raised $40,000 for sarcoma research, and raised his own morale at the same time.
The Box of Chocolates Marathon got profiled in Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd weekly feature in October 2005.

Fast forward four years and many clean scans. This weekend, Brian and a friend will participate in the "Running of the Fools," a 50 mile endurance run. It's another one of Brian's creations. The real name of the run, considered by runners an ultra-marathon, is the American River Endurance Run. Again, the beneficiary will be sarcoma research.

This time, I know he will make it, if he has to crawl on his belly.

Having cancer has taught Brian a big lesson. In his words "you gotta run through the puddles of life."

"One Sunday, I did a 28 mile training run (about 5 hours). It was pouring down rain the whole time. For the first 15 miles, I was annoyed as hell by the rain. Then I came to a giant puddle. Instead of running around it like I had for the first 15 miles, I just ran straight through it. I mean, I couldn't get any wetter. My demeanor immediately changed. I realized that I couldn't control the rain -- the only thing I had any real control over was my attitude. So the last 13 miles became an amazing journey of joy -- I felt like a kid again running through puddles. I have brought this insight forward into my life every single day since that time."

Many cancer patients have said the experience changed their lives for the better. But Brian also seems to want to change the lives of others as well. What do you say to someone who is off to run fifty miles? Break a leg?

 
 
 

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