Today, I'm sharing an inspirational story about a stranger dedicating a marathon run to Atia. Next week, I'll get back to our lives after Asher's birth.
Since Atia's ALL leukemia diagnosis, we've been blessed with so many random acts of kindness. In crisis situations, you expect your family and friends to quickly circle their wagons in an act of protection and support, but when a stranger graciously reaches out and offers assistance, it really touches the soul. Don't get me wrong, we are eternally grateful for EVERYTHING that EVERYONE has done for us along the way, but when someone that has absolutely no connection and no reason to help, does - it makes a lasting impression.
One such person is Alicia, a friend-of-a-friend. Back in February, my friend, Samantha (Sam), donated money to her friend, Alicia's marathon fundraising website. As a thank you, before the marathon began, Alicia told Sam she'd write her name on her leg - a gesture symbolic of Sam "being with her" while she ran. Awesome concept, right?!?
But, Sam had a different idea in mind...
Sam emailed me and asked if it'd be ok to use Atia's name instead of hers. She'd been following our story and knew how much Atia had been through; she felt that Atia was the real hero and the one who deserved to be recognized. I was beyond moved. I must have read and re-read her email a dozen times; then, I sat in silence taking a moment to let it all sink in.
What a thoughtful request...
Steve and I agreed that we'd be honored to have Atia's name included on Alicia's leg, even though we didn't know her. A few days later, Sam sent another email; this one included a virtual introduction to Alicia. Sam told me that she'd sent Alicia a link to my personal blog, which Alicia had read and been inspired.
Alicia, a perfect stranger, decided to dedicate her run to Atia. Alicia said she'd draw strength while running thinking about all that Atia had been through; she asked if it'd be OK to create a running bib that included a picture of Atia and said, "I'm running for Atia!" Once again, I was touched. I couldn't believe it. I immediately agreed and sent Alicia a picture. Within days, Alicia emailed me the bib sample; when I opened it, I cried. It was beautiful!
Since then, Alicia and I have emailed back and forth several times. I've never met her in person, but I now consider her one of MY friends - no longer just a friend-of-a-friend. Alicia is a mother herself and has been both supportive and empathetic to my struggles. She is selfless and a true example of the human spirit, full of kindness and overall goodness.
On Sunday, June 6, 2010, Alicia will be running in the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon as a member of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Team in Training. We will be cheering her on from Chicago.
Go, Alicia, Go!
Atia created a special message for Alicia:
Atia's saying, "Hi, Alicia! It's me, Atia. I wanna say, thank you! You'll do great! I'll be with you. Big hugs..."
You can follow Alicia's journey, send encouraging words of support or make donations at:
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~ Philo
Alicia's kindness reminded me of my own experience. In 2006, my cousin (and one of my best friends), Becky, ran the Chicago Marathon as a tribute to me.
Upon learning of my melanoma diagnosis, Becky felt so desperately helpless; there was little she could do, especially since she lived in Florida and I lived in Illinois. Though, that didn't hinder her determination to find creative ways to "be there" without physically being there.
When she came across the Melanoma Research Foundation and learned that they had Miles for Melanoma, "a national fundraising program initiative established to raise funds and awareness of melanoma," she knew that she'd found a way to make a difference.
Becky had never run a marathon before. She was a casual runner; she ran when she could, but never seriously or competitively. So, tackling a 26.2 mile marathon was a huge undertaking. She knew it was going to be hard, but she told me, as inspiration, she'd channel my pain, courage and endurance while undergoing treatment. She said, "No matter how hard it gets or how painful it becomes, it's only one day; you've been going through it for an entire year. I can do it, because you've BEEN doing it."
The day of the marathon, I helped tie 26 red strings around Becky's wrist; each one representing two weeks of my year-long cancer treatment. Each mile, during the run, she untied and released a string. For Becky, it was a celebration of a completed mile, an acknowledgement of two weeks of my horrible cancer treatment and a reminder of how much further she still had to go (giving her a sense of how I felt during treatment). For me, each string that dropped to the ground cleansed a piece of the burden from my soul - the pain I'd suffered, the fear I'd had and the overall sadness I'd experienced.
When I'd been diagnosed, I wasn't sure whether or not I'd survive, but there I was over a year later. I was cancer-free, no longer going through treatment and cheering on my amazing cousin!
I was (and still am) humbled by Becky's selfless act of kindness. She was able to raise a respectable amount of money and she crossed the finish line with grace and pride, not to mention she made great time. I remember running towards her with my arms extended and collapsing into a deep embrace.
That day, Becky was MY hero!
Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. ~ Lao Tzu
Filed under: Marathon
Tags: 2006 chicago marathon, 2010 san diego marathon, alicia amborso, ALL leukemia, Cancer, chicago marathon, LLS, marathon, melanoma research foundation, miles for melanoma, rebecca koegel, rebecca martel, san diego marathon, san diego rock 'n' roll marathon, team in training, the leukemia & lymphoma society