Years ago I ran the Marine Corps Marathon with Oprah Winfrey.
To be more precise, I ran in the same race as Oprah. We didn't actually run together, although I was right beside or just behind her most of the 26.2 miles.
Oprah and I were both running in our first marathon and were focused on finishing rather than winning. But there were substantial differences between the two of us.
Oprah ran with what I presumed was her trainer, although it may have been a security person. He was a Marine-looking man with a buzz cut and broad shoulders who handed her water or Gatorade whenever she asked for it.
Me? I ran by myself and had to wait until there was a water station along the course. Fortunately, there were lots of them.
Oprah also had a team that had gotten her ready for that race. I assume this included her personal chef who appeared often on her television show to demonstrate healthy eating.
Me? I trained by myself and ate what Runner's World magazine told me I should eat.
I didn't then and definitely do not now resent Oprah for using the advantages she had to prepare for and run that marathon. She still had to run the race herself and the fact that she did what she set out to do by finishing is really all that counts. To this day I applaud her (and myself for that matter) for doing it. As any marathoner will tell you, especially someone like me (and I think Oprah) for whom running is not easy or fun, it deserves to be celebrated.
I'm now playing the role Oprah played in the marathon as I go through treatment for cancer.
I am extremely fortunate because I'm doing it with more resources at my disposal than most of those who go through the same thing. I have a team of people helping me prepare for and deal with every step along the way. I have an incredibly supportive Beautiful and Talented Wife (The BTW) and a job that gives me the freedom to do what I need to do when I need to do it. I have the wherewithal to add things like massages and acupuncture to minimize the side effects, or at least to mitigate how they make me feel. I have decent health insurance.
And long before I was diagnosed I had a commitment to physical fitness that's now making it much easier for me to deal with many of the changes that are happening to my body as I go through what I'm calling The Process.
I know that many most others don't have the same advantages I have. Then again, most people don't get cancer either. According to the American Cancer Association, by the time 2014 ends approximately 1.7 million out of almost 320 million Americans will be diagnosed with some form of the disease. Obviously the situation each person faces will be different. Some will have a job and health insurance that will make it possible for them to receive treatment. Some will have strong family support. Some will have a work situation that makes it easier to be treated and deal with the side effects. Some will be in good overall physical condition that makes it easier to tolerate the radiation or chemotherapy.
And some of those who are diagnosed with cancer, like me, will have all of those things.
The irony is that having the advantages I have doesn't necessarily make it more likely I will survive. In spite of all I have going for me, I may be one of the approximately 586,000 Americans who the American Cancer Society says will die from the disease this year.
But having the advantages does make it easier for me to go through The Process and that's what this story is about.
Like me with Oprah and the marathon, please don't resent me. No matter how many advisors are helping me, I still have to run this race myself and finishing is all that matters.
This is the first in a continuing series of blog posts by Stan Collender about his experience fighting cancer. “The Process” Stan is describing began last August.