Tuesday, June 9, 2009

5 Months Till Chicago

Last night I had a dream. It wasn't a bad dream necessarily, but it's a dream that I wish didn't have to occur, a dream that shouldn't have to happen. In this dream I was giving my mom a hug; seems innocent enough, yet technically is now impossible in this world. You see, my mother passed a way a few weeks ago. It's her passing that is driving me to run an insane amount of miles in hopes that I can help researchers and doctors continue to make new discoveries in medicine that will one day help cure cancer.

So how did it start? Well first how about a little background on me? I graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Atmospheric Science--that's right, I'm a meteorologist (pause for laughter). After graduation last Spring, it was time to find a job. I sent out tape after tape hoping that I would get one phone call from an interested news director wanting to hire me. And it happened in the most random place-Sioux City, Iowa. Let's just say before I saw there was a job opening, I had actually never heard of the 85,000 person market 149 town located where Nebraska, South Dakota, and Iowa intersect. Heck, I didn't know those three states even converged (just kidding, I knew that Nebraska bordered Iowa!) So for the first time ever, I permanently picked up my Missouri roots, and moved 8 hours from St. Louis.

Time went by and everything was going pretty good. I've talked to my mom every day on the phone since the very first day of college and nothing had really changed. Instead of calling her between classes, I was now calling her between work and home. We always talked about the same things, how I was doing, my work, the weather, home life. Then last fall hit. All of a sudden our conversations held a little more clout. I would hear about how she wasn't feeling so great, how she was having some issues with her arm hurting and it was hard to breathe (we never actually used the "C" word into she went under the knife). My family liked to play this little game with me. They would never tell me exactly what was going on. It wasn't a fun game, but nevertheless something I would call a game. Finally I found out she was having surgery. The prognosis: my mother had a tumor on her lung but they had found it very early and everything SHOULD be fine--notice how I wrote "should" in all caps. Should was the keyword that kept normal life spinning. While no one wants to hear that they have to have invasive surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, the idea that everything SHOULD be OK does make the situation a little easier to cope with.

After that surgery, time went on and not much changed. My family kept me in the loop of her health--sorta. Things weren't necessarily getting worse, but they didn't appear to be getting much better. That's about all I knew. Every once in awhile I might receive a text saying "Mom has to have surgery tomorrow--nothing to big". Let's just say that I was getting very angry that I was getting this news via text message. Taking a step back though, I try to see the point of view from the man on the other line. For how difficult it was for us kids, it had to be even more difficult for dad. It can't be fun to see the life slipping away from someone you've love for more than 31 years.

Fast forward: It's 5 days before Christmas and my mom has had a few more surgeries and is residing in the hospital. Because of my amazingly inflexible career path and people's unfathomable interest in news and weather, I was scheduled to work on Christmas. If you know me at all, you know how devastating that is. I'm the Clark Griswold of Garden Valley Drive. I obsess over the holiday and attempt to top myself every year with more Christmas lights and bigger Christmas trees. As I said, a few days before Christmas, I start getting emails and phone calls from relatives (and soon to be :) ) explaining why I should use my mom's circumstances to get home for Christmas. Side note real fast--when I say "use my mom's circumstances", that's based off a little joke we had between each other. In the beginning, I was able to take a few days off from work unexpectedly to visit home and be with my mom. My mom liked the idea of me taking days off just to hang out with her, even if it was because of the circumstances. Ok, back to the story though--so my family started turning the coils in my head that maybe it was a good idea to come from Christmas. My optimistic mind wouldn't allow me to think what they were thinking. This wasn't going to be her last Christmas. No way no how would every Christmas for the rest of my life be without the person who made the holiday feel so special. I decided it wasn't a risk work taking. If there was even the slightest possibility that this could be the case, then I wasn't going to let my work stand in the way of seeing my mom on Christmas morning. Little did I know this would be one of the best and most important decision's I've ever made. After work on Christmas Eve I was on a plane and by 9PM I was in the hospital visiting my mom. It would be the last Christmas Eve I would ever spend with her.

Winter ended and Spring came and things continued to pretty much "stay the same". While she was still on regiments of chemo and radiation, things were still pretty much remaining neutral. She was frail and skinny, but still had most of her hair and with that came most of her personality and sense of humor. She had these great wigs that she bought but never really got to enjoy. I still think she went way to conservative--I pictured long blue locks or a nice 70's era black Afro. She thought a short blond wig would be fine instead. One day I was sitting on my floor after a run and I got a phone call from my dad. It was a Catch 22 of sorts you see-I was now getting phone calls for updates on my mom but it was because the news started getting worse. I was happy to get the phone calls. Chemo and Radiation had stopped working and it was time to hit the arsenals and use last hope medicine. A pill that worked like chemo that was to be taken every morning. To my understanding, the pill was very specific to the type of cancer and the type of people it worked on.

This is when things get a little interesting. I was in town over St. Patrick's Day (I think that was the Holiday) and was on the way to Main Street St. Charles for lunch with my sister to meet a few friends I hadn't seen in a while. My sister started talking about my mom and how if this pill didn't work, then the timeline goes into affect. TIMELINE!! WHAT TIMELINE!?! This was the first of this news I had been told and it was because my sister assumed my dad had told me something that he so kindly emitted from our conversations. Lunch ended up being a little more depressing than I had hoped.

We found out a few weeks later that the pill stopped working and it was just a matter of time before my mom died. Talk about a bomb just being dropped. It was like someone just took a piece of your soul and ripped it from your body. It's something no one should ever have to go through--especially when your mom is barely in her middle 50s. Time passed and family visited my home in St. Louis with hopes of seeing my mom one last time. Finally I knew with the help of my family it was time to get home and spend my mom's final days with her, feeding her ice chips and talking to her, trying to keep things as peaceful and normal as possible. On May 18, 2009, God allowed my mom to stop suffering and took her from this world. This world will never be the same.

A long first entry right? However, I think it sets the stage for how important this race, this mission, this opportunity is for me. I've pledged to run 26.2 miles in dedication of Nancy Roberts. The team name that my friend Lauren and I are running for is literally called "Team Nancy". Not the most creative of sorts but hey, I think it gets the point across. We've pledged to raise at least $2,000 for the American Cancer Society in hopes that even this small amount will somehow aid in research and funding for development of new medicines that will one day stop this terrible disease. Through reading my story, you've seen the impact it's had on my life, my family, my friends. It's time that no one else has to go through such a terrible thing at such a young life. So what am I asking of you. Keep me in your thoughts, keep my in your prayers, and if so be it, keep me in your pocket books. I'll continue to update this blog every week to let you know just how training is going. Who knows, you might even hear some funny and interesting stories along the way. But with the help of a great girl behind me, a supportive team mate, loving family, and incredible friends, we are going to raise this money. Look at me, I continue to ramble. Day 1 of marathon training starts today and as we all know (or at least Ashley and I), "Runners Do It On The Road". Day 1: 3 miles--sounds easy enough to me. Until next time, happy running!

Love You Mom

P.S. Here are the links to our Team Websites where you can read more and donate money to the cause. Thanks in Advance!!



  1. I love the idea. Keep the updates coming. My sister and brother-in-law are running in the Chicago marathon and I'm gonna try and make it up there that weekend to watch all of you guys and thank god I'm not the one doing the running.

  2. Alex great first post to your blog. I hope to come cheer you on in Chicago! miss you durty!

  3. Somehow I'm just now discovering this blog. Great entries- honest and inspiring. Wish I could be there to support you in person...miss you Al and I'm proud that you're doing amazing things!