According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of a marathon—aside from “a footrace run on an open course of 26 miles, 385 yards”—is “an endurance contest” and “something characterized by great length or concentrated effort.”
Michael, a close friend of mine who is married to Carrie Ann, one of my best friends from senior year of high school and college, is going through a marathon of his own right now. He’s battling rectal cancer, which has completely turned their lives upside down.
Here are some comments from Carrie: “The chemo made him very sick. He ended up nearly dying. He spent five weeks in the ICU and rehabilitation only to have to resume the radiation once he got out. He got through that and had surgery. He’s basically trapped on the recliner 24/7 and in a lot of pain.
In addition to fear and physical pain, there’s a great deal of grief to deal with. Grief over a loss of the life we used to have. It was a pretty mundane, simple life…work, reading, TV, trips to McDonalds. But it was OUR mundane life.
We try to stay positive because it is the only way to continue to function. Mike is a dreamer. He copes by imagining all the opportunities he’ll have after this is all over. Sometimes he copes by avoidance. Part of this is unavoidable because the treatment has impacted his memory.
It’s important to make an effort to do things we enjoy. We go to Barnes & Noble for coffee and binge-read magazines. We watch DVD marathons of our favorite shows. When times get really bad, we just cry a lot. Or curse the universe for being so unfair.
But it isn’t over for Mike. One of his lymph nodes showed signs of cancer. Only one out of 31, but it counts as metastasis, so he needs another course of chemotherapy. This is pretty terrifying considering how badly chemo went last time.
Mike is most upset about the change to his work life. You know how he loved to work. The cancer treatment caused permanent damage to the nerves in his hands and feet by making his diabetes worse. He’s had to apply for permanent disability. This has been a huge blow. He doesn’t know what he’ll do with himself. His whole purpose in life is now in question.
We have to be grateful and appreciate every minute together because it could end in an instant. But that’s true for all of us, isn’t it? The present moment is all any of us can count on.”
On May 5th I will dedicate the marathon I’m running to Michael—who, ironically, I first met 26 years ago when I was 18. Mike, on that day while I’m struggling through my marathon, I’ll be thinking of the far more challenging marathon you’re struggling through—every day. When I cross my finish line, I’ll be wishing with everything I’ve got that you’ll get to cross your finish line right along with me.
Get well soon, Mike! Carrie, stay strong! XO