Thursday, May 06, 2010

Race for Hope

I got home sunday night from my weekend trip down to Virginia/DC and I’ve been thinking all week about what an amazing and moving experience it was for me to be able to participate in the 5K Race for Hope. First and foremost I want to thank everyone who donated to this cause and helped me more than double my original goal of $200.00! I am so proud of the fact that I raised $455.00 and last I checked my team, David Cook’s Team for A Cure, raised $140,853.03! The total raised this year was 2.3 million dollars and there were more than 11,000 participants from all walks of life, including many brain tumor survivors who proudly wore their yellow survivor shirts!!

I was trying to remember exactly when I made the decision to run in this event and I think it probably came a short time after I saw David Cook’s appearance on Larry King where he talked about his brother passing away from a brain tumor. David said the word, ‘glioblastoma’ and it was then that I realized that this young man that mom and I watched on American Idol week after week had been touched by the same disease that had devastated our family. I had known that Adam Cook had brain cancer but didn’t know that is was a glio until that moment. On the interview they showed a clip of David at this fundraiser race in Washington DC and I thought, “I can do that!!”

Mom and I had been watching American Idol every year since season 2 when we both fell in love with Clay Aiken…sadly we were cursed with always picking the contestant that didn’t win year after year but we took it all in stride. We would call each other on the phone or if I happened to be visiting her on my many springtime trips with Alex we would watch together and more often than not we liked the same people every season…almost always. :) Season 4 was pretty funny because while I took a liking to Constantine Maroulis mom really loved Bo Bice and I teased her mercilessly because she always loved the long hair and I told her it was because Bo’s hair was longer. Season 5 we both really liked Daughtry but mom had a soft spot for Elliot Yamin and I have to say I did as well.

Each year we would watch together over the phone and call each other when a particular performance was amazing! I could count the seconds and knew the phone would ring and mom would be on the other end screaming, “:Oh my GOD that was so goooood!!!!” It was our ritual, week after week and we looked forward to the show every single season.

By the time season 7 came along and the finale was approaching we were both really enjoying David Cook’s performances. It was 2008 and mom had been diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer in January but we still managed our weekly ritual whether I was at home and someone else was with her or I happened to be taking care of her and we watched it together at her home in Florida. I can still remember how upset she was when we found out that Adam Cook, David’s brother, had a brain tumor. There were weeks when she would fall asleep during the show but I always woke her up so that she would be able to see David perform and then she would go back to sleep…the radiation and chemotherapy were really taking their toll on her at that point. I was just going back and reading some of my older posts and came across this one from May of 2008 and this was from the Top 4 results show when Maroon 5 performed. I always like to go back and watch mom’s feet dancing to the music, it brings a smile to my face every time to remember how much she enjoyed music in her life.

I can still remember when David won because we were both shocked, expecting of course that our favorite would come in 2nd place as was always our luck most seasons but this time our favorite actually won and we were both clapping and screaming and mom was too weak to jump up and down so I did it for both of us and she was laughing so hard because I was making a total fool of myself, it was priceless…I will never forget it.

So here I was after finding out about David losing his brother and I was so moved that he was grieving the loss of his brother and yet he still showed up and ran in this race the next morning! I guess that sparked something in me after seeing that and I signed up to get email updates from the Brain Tumor Society. My mom died 3 weeks after Adam Cook and when I saw the information posted for this year’s event I knew I had to be a part of it even if I had to crawl across the finish line.

I started training sometime in March, I don’t remember the exact day but a little bit at a time I built myself up to 2 miles with a combination of walking/running. I figured if I could do that much another 1.1 miles wouldn’t be hard to reach…5K is the equivalent of 3.1 miles. By the end of April I was up to a full mile of running, walking 1/2 a mile and running another 1/2 mile so I was pretty happy with that considering I have to protect my lower back and make sure I don’t put too much stress on it.

My sister, Nancy, had decided that she wasn’t going to be able to join me because she didn’t want to have baby Cole in the stroller all day so it was just to be Alex and I and he seemed to be really excited about it. I sent in a picture of mom for the “Wall of Hope” and I was really anticipating the event when I went to pick up our shirts and our official race bibs with our numbers on them the day before. Alex was going to wear Aunt Nancy’s bib since she wasn’t going to be there and we also both had signed up to volunteer to help break down and put the tables and chairs in the trucks after the event was over. We went to bed on saturday night and I got up at 5:30am on sunday morning and I was more than ready to face the day and represent my mom and help raise some money to find a cure for brain tumors!!

I was so proud of myself for driving into downtown DC and not getting lost, Alex helped with the map and figuring out where we needed to be and I found a prime parking spot about 2 blocks from Pennsylvania Avenue where the race was taking place!! WooT!! Alex and I found our team’s meeting spot and hung out and waited until our special guest came out to talk to his team. It was actually pretty funny because Alex said to me, “So why are we on this guy’s team?” So I explained to him about how David Cook won American Idol and how grandma really loved him and I told him about David’s brother having the same brain tumor that grandma had and I think he understood at that point why I chose to be on this team. David Cook came out and talked to us, his team members, for a few minutes and thanked everyone for coming out and supporting this cause to find a cure for brain tumors and then he walked over to the “Survivor’s Tent” to greet all of the heroes who have beat this disease. Of course there were a few people that approached him even though we were asked not to since he was there just like the rest of us and not as an American Idol.

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I had sent in one of my favorite photos of mom to be including on the Wall of Hope and I spotted her beautiful face as soon as I walked up to the wall and I found it so fitting that not only was there a photo of David Cook just below mom’s on the wall but to the right was a photo of someone with Mickey Mouse and boy did mom love her some Mickey and Minnie so that just really made me smile as well as make me get a little emotional.

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After walking around a bit more and doing some stretching Alex and I asked someone to take our photo by the start line before things got crowded, here we are standing on Pennsylvania Avenue with the Capitol behind us. At this point I feel I am as ready as I’ll ever be and when the announcer said “And you’re off…” I took a deep breath and started my run and I felt fantastic! Alex and I decided we would take turns holding our little bag so I didn’t have to use the bag check (next time I’m investing in a runner’s waist pack with water bottle attached to it) and I also wanted to keep my phone and camera on me to be able to take photos and remember the day.

04 05 So you would think that a 12 year old pretty active and healthy kid could keep up with his 50 year old mom, right? Boy was I in for a surprise when about 1/2 mile in Alex tells me he can’t make it and we have to walk!! I couldn’t believe it! I had trained so hard for this and here I was now walking because Alex couldn’t keep going! We walked for a while or I should say Alex walked fast and I tried to just jog slowly so he could keep up with me and whenever possible we found some shade on the side of the course for him because I could see that he was starting to get overheated. I told him to just do the best he could and we would get through it. At the one mile mark I felt great and I was trying to keep Alex motivated and when we turned the next corner he saw the water station and that perked him up a bit but then he decided that he had to visit the bathroom when we passed one so I’m outside the porta-potty jogging in place while he’s inside doing his business and then off we went again.

06 Here we are on the way back to the start/finish line and you can really see this kid’s face is red and he is so ready to be done and at this point I told him to think about grandma and we could finish this thing and that gave him another spurt to run a bit until he found a water fountain and he stopped again and stuck his face in the water and gave himself a shower to cool off!! I was beginning to wonder if he would be able to finish because he was really struggling with the heat and the fact that he takes strattera for his ADHD does tend to make him overheat more than normal so once I saw we only had about 6 blocks left until the finish I told him to stop and walk on the side of the road for a while until we got closer and then we could run across the finish line together for our last push.

I almost feel that mom was with us at this point because you have to realize that there were over 10,000 people running and walking and riding in strollers, wheelchairs and we even saw a few kids with scooters so to be able to find anyone in that crowd would have been next to impossible, right? With about 5 blocks left I glance to my right and sitting there on the sidewalk alone was David and I just decided to say hello and talk to him for a moment as we were passing by. I told him that my son didn’t have a clue who he was and could I introduce him and he said, “Sure, I don’t know who I am half the time anyway!” He shook Alex’s hand and I was just so happy to be able to meet him and I told him that I lost my mom just 3 weeks after his brother, Adam, passed away last year and he took my hand and squeezed it really tight and said, “I’m so sorry and thanks so much for coming out and doing this today.” He was just so sweet and I asked him if it would be ok to take a photo and he said, “Of course, absolutely!” so I told Alex to sit on the sidewalk next to him and snapped this photo and we said thanks and walked away.

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Of all the people there that morning I still can’t believe that we happened to be walking by and I spotted him sitting there! I later found out from our co-captain that he had crossed the finish line (I think his time was 26 minutes this year) and then walked back a few blocks to sit and wait for his family members who were walking in the event that day. Do you believe that things happen for a reason? I do and I feel that mom had a hand in this meeting, I had been wishing for a long time that I would meet him and just have the opportunity to tell him about my mom and how much she loved him and that she prayed for his brother to get well.

07 Alex perked up when he could see the balloons in sight and he knew we were close to the finish and he was so happy that it was almost over! I wish we could have gotten a photo at the finish line but I have my memories of the moment we crossed together holding hands and our time was 50:51!! I was proud to have been able to do this and I was even more proud of Alex because despite the fact that he was really feeling bad and wanted to stop and walk the rest of the way he kept on trying to run at different times so he could keep up with me…he would run fast to get ahead of me and then stop and walk slow to catch his breath while he waited for me to jog up to where he was. I kept on hugging him at the end and told him that grandma would have been so proud of him knowing how hard it was but he just never gave up and kept on doing his very best. He told me next year he is going to start training ahead of time like I did so that we can do much better with our time.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this and to see all of teams and the wonderful spirit of everyone there was so moving. Every time I saw someone in a yellow shirt it brought to mind the fact that not everyone has to die from a brain tumor, there are different levels of it but my mom just had probably the worst one you could be diagnosed with. I think that it did a lot of good for Alex to see all of the survivors as well because he commented to me how there were a lot of people with yellow shirts on so ‘they beat it, didn’t they?’ Yes, there were a lot of survivors there and it was really incredible to see their determination and their drive to complete the 5K but I hope that someday everyone will be a survivor because through the money raised and the research that is being done we can find a cure for this insidious disease so that no one else has to suffer from it and if someone hears, “It’s a brain tumor…” they will know with certainty that they can be cured and they will not be facing a death sentence. I can still remember where I was and what I had been doing when I got the phone call about my mom having brain cancer and I can still remember the utter helplessness that I felt and I wish with all my heart that no one ever has to face that but until a cure is found it will happen. I pray that it will be in our lifetime.

If you’re still reading, thank you for your time. I wrote this all out to use as my journaling when I scrapbook these photos. But in case you’re wondering…mom’s favorite on American Idol last year…Adam Lambert, came in 2nd place. I’m also pretty sure this season she would totally love Casey, he’s in the top 4 now, let’s see how it plays out in the finale. :-)

2 comments:

Diane said...

I believe things happen for a reason too. What are the chances David would be sitting alone and you would be able to speak to him without interruptions. Your mom would have been so proud of you and Alex! I'm sure she was smiling down on you two that day with a ton of love for you both!

Diane

Laura said...

Awesome! I'm so proud of you, as I know your mom is too! WTG Linda and Alex, and how cool about chatting with David?! Love you my friend! :)