Be Not Afraid

I Will Rise

I’ve been running with Cancer to 5k, a program that trains cancer survivors for a 5k for free, for a little over a month now.  And last night, as I ran with three “sherpas” (volunteers who either have had cancer or been touched by cancer) by my side, I felt strong.  I had only run twenty minutes or so, and by no means quickly.  Every three minutes I had taken a one-minute break to walk.  But I had made it to the end, and as I ran uphill towards my coach (another kind-hearted volunteer), I sped up, savoring the feeling of the muscles in my legs burning and the wind blowing the wisps of hair off my sticky neck.  I felt completely alive, and so very grateful.

The healing process is often slow and hard.  Some days I feel a bit like my old self – happy, passionate, dreaming and planning for the future.  And some days, anxiety, anger, guilt, or fear takes my breath away.  On those days it is tempting to retreat into myself, climb into bed with my sweet son by my side, and close my eyes.  Because sometimes, remembering what has been and what has been stolen from me is too much.  Sometimes, wondering why I am here and another person is not is too much.  And sometimes, too often lately, the world is just too much.

I see the pain on the faces of those who have lost loved ones to cancer, to car crashes, to war, to bombings at marathons, to shootings at schools and movie theaters, and I start to wonder what it’s all for, this living and trying and striving.  I hear John Paul say “happy, happy, happy” to himself as he bounds down the stairs and I want to cry because this two-year old doesn’t yet know pain beyond scraping his knee, sadness beyond saying goodbye to a friend after a play date, or fear beyond the darkness of his room at night.  He doesn’t yet know of the harshness of life, of the world, and oh, what I would do to keep it that way forever.  And though I know I have the great honor as his mother to help him learn to see all the beauty in the world despite the scary things, I let insecurities overwhelm me and tell me I’m just one person against so much evil in the world, so what can I do?

John Paul

But then, I remember.  I remember the kindness of a nurse practitioner’s blue eyes as she kept her face on mine the whole time a needle was being pushed into my chest, checking for cancer that fateful night two years ago.  I remember the way John Paul reached up and touched my cheek with his tiny hand after meeting me, despite not seeing me for eight hours, knowing he was mine and I was his as soon as he heard my voice.  I remember my sister holding my hand, never flinching or showing fear, as a nurse struggled to place an IV into my bruised arm for over forty-five minutes.  I remember my mom slowly and gently removing the long tube that had administered pain medication into my chest after a reoccurrence scare and biopsy, all the while smiling and telling me it was almost over.  I remember my dad’s tired eyes as he entered my hospital room after driving all day and night from where he’d been vacationing in Florida, because he couldn’t bear the thought of being away from me.  I remember my brother collapsing into my arms, a mess of sweat and tears, after he completed a triathlon in my honor.

I remember my mother-in-law’s tight hug when she threw me a baby shower in a conference room, complete with cake and decorations and presents, the night before my C-section.  I remember my best friend sitting by my side as poison flowed into my veins, stopping anyone who dared to enter the room and asking that they let me sleep in peace.  I remember my brother-in-law sitting with me that first night in the Intensive Care Unit, watching sitcoms and forcing smiles even as doctors came in and out and our minds raced with questions.  I remember my friends from church cracking jokes about my sassy wig, “Holli,” bringing much-needed levity and laughter.  I remember my dear friend and working mother of four flying cross-country to care for my son and me as if she had all the time in the world.  And I remember my husband holding me as I cried after I threw up or tried to eat something despite the mouth sores, or just felt the weight of all the seriousness and sadness and fear bearing down on me.  I remember the way he lovingly cut my hair before it began to fall out and told me I looked beautiful, how he breathes a loud sigh of relief each time my doctor walks in after a follow-up scan and says, “It’s good,” and how he constantly tells me I’m his hero, even when I falter and fail to return all the love given to me.

I remember all this, and so much more.  The amount of love and kindness poured out on me has been immeasurable, as well as the grace given by God Himself.  The moments where I teetered just above despair and He found a way to remind me that He was there, the promises He has dared me to believe and then fulfilled, and the joy He has shown me even in pain, even in suffering, even in the face of death – it is all almost beyond my comprehension.

I remember all this, and this is why I feel I must run.  I am not very fast.  I am not very strong.  I am not even very coordinated.  But I am living proof of the goodness in the world, despite my brokenness and sinfulness and shortcomings, only because of the love given to me in my greatest time of need.  And I want people to see that when I run.  I want them to be reminded of the beauty that still exists despite all the evil that threatens to pull us into the darkness, especially lately, especially in this often confusing and difficult world.

And so, I will run a 5k on June 15th.  I have no goal other than to finish, and I have no request other than that you pray for me as I move forward and that when you feel discouraged or down or fed up with the world, you remember the story of what you and so many others gave to me, without expectation of reciprocity, without reservation, in my time of need.  When I run each week as I train for my race, and when I run that day in June, I will be doing it for you, as an offering, not big enough or great enough, but an offering nonetheless, in thanksgiving for all you and God have given me.

****

I have always been honored to pray for you in any way I can, especially when I was in treatment and so needed a reminder to look outside of myself.  If you would help me continue to do this by sending me any prayer requests you might have, I would be so grateful.  Specific or unspecific, big or small, whatever healing or hope you may need in your life – feel free to send it my way and know you will be remembered.

And if anyone in the area would like to join me on June 15th, I would love to have you run/walk/skip/whatever by my side.  You can contact me for more information or sign up for the race to raise funds for the fight against pancreatic cancer here: http://www.kintera.org/faf/home/ccp.asp?ievent=1052169&ccp=634713

****

Rise-Josh Garrels

I hung my head, for the last time
In surrender and despair
Before I’m dead, I’ll take the last climb
Up the mountain, face my fears
The time has come, to make a choice
Use my voice for the love of every man

My minds made up, never again
Never again, will I turn round

Though they may surround me like lions
And crush me on all sides
I may fall, but I will rise
Not by my might, or my power, or by the strength of swords
Only through, your love, my lord
All we’ve lost, will be, restored

Take courage sons, for we must go under
The heart of darkness, and set them free
But don’t lose heart when you see the numbers
There’s no measure for, the faith we bring
It’s given us, to overcome
If we run, where the spirit calls us on
The greatest things, have yet to come
With the dawn, we will rise

Though they may surround us like lions
And crush us on all sides
we may fall, but we will rise
Not by my might, or my power, or by the strength of swords
Only through, your love, my lord
All we’ve lost, will be, restored

****

For more information about Cancer to 5k and the Ullman Cancer Foundation, click here.

To hear more of Josh Garrel’s incredible music and to support this great artist, click here.

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7 comments

  1. Aunt Cathy

    Allison, I am so very proud of you!!! Keep running, walking, moving . . . whatever it takes to keep that wonderful feeling of accomplishment, freedom, connection. There is nothing better than a walk or run to make you feel so good!! You are truly a survivor!! Can’t wait to do an event with you.

  2. Mary

    What a way to start my morning. Thank you, Allison, for your candor and your determination to see beauty and goodness. I’m so proud of you.

  3. Marjorie Nichta

    So so glad to “see” you again. Just Wednesday I was returning to town from a short trip and passed a big sign for a high school called John Pall II Catholic High School and though of your little family!
    Please help me pray. My heart is full of gratitude for the many many many blessings I have been given, most specifically faith, family, friends and FOOD!

  4. There is so much beauty from within you that glows every time you post. Keep rising, one breath at a time, one day at a time. The minutes will tick away but your beauty will never fade away.

  5. I just stopped by your blog today and I wanted to say this entry was beautiful, and the love that you are surrounded by is beautiful! I hope the 5k went AWESOME and that you’ll write another entry about the experience 🙂 Glad to see you’re doing well and thriving. ❤

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