April 29, 2010
Yesterday, as we headed to school, Tanner and I talked about the mile run scheduled that morning that is part of her school’s physical education program. Just the night before, she had taken the last dose of a five-day steroid pulse, and just 6 days before, she had a dose of Vincristine. Both things bother her legs and make her weaker than normal, among other side effects.
“You feel okay to run today?” I asked.
“Sure,” she said.
“You know, if you’re too tired, you don’t have to run,” I said.
“No, Mr. Parks says it’s not just a fun run, it’s a test; we have to do our best,” she insisted.
“Well, I know, but I can talk to Mr. Parks if you think you won’t be able to finish. I don’t want you to push too hard.”
“Why wouldn’t I be able to run, Mom?” she asked… innocently… expectantly.
Long pause on my part. “No reason… run like the wind, girl.”
And, run she did. One mile in 13:09 minutes. She ran, joyfully, in spurts, giggling with friends as she passed them or caught up to them. Jake and I ran with her for part of the run and John took video from the side, the only Dad there in a suit.
She ran as if there was nothing wrong, as if there was no reason she shouldn’t be able to, as every child does… with youthful abandon.
I have to admit, I teared up as she crossed the line ahead of some of her classmates. This child with every reason not to run, and every reason to run.
It made me think about the run the year before. I said to John, “She ran faster than she did last year, when she didn’t have cancer.”
But, here’s the thing. She did have cancer when she ran last year. We just didn’t know it. In fact, she limped the last ¼ mile or so, complaining about a pain in her upper right leg; the leg that was so painful when she was diagnosed, and the leg that still hurts her now.
That afternoon, I told Allison, her therapist, how Tanner had run with all that medication in her, all that poisonous chemo eating at her. She smiled and said, “That’s her incredibly strong will. It’s what makes her so difficult to deal with when she really wants something, but it’s serving her well, too.”
One mile. 5,280 feet. Two proud parents. One joyfully determined child.