On a daily basis, I’m asked why I started running or why I started this blog? To this point, my answer has been “I just started running and started a blog about the importance of eating well as an athlete.” There is much more to it than that – and almost 10 years later, it is finally time to share my story.
It all started in October 2008. My family and I were at home, sitting in the den waiting for a phone call that would reveal my diagnosis. Several days prior, I had discovered a bump on my neck. I didn’t think too much of it, but we went to the doctor and she gave me antibiotics. The doctor called and booked an appointment for a biopsy. To my surprise at 14, I was diagnosed with cancer.
The doctor had told me it could be one of two things. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which was very curable and treatable – or Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which was not as treatable and often recurs after treatment. The doctor said that I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This was supposed to be good news. But now that it had a name, it suddenly became all too real – and it shook me to the core.
I made it through four months of intense chemotherapy and a month of radiation. Every day I would wake up with the room spinning, I couldn’t go a day without vomiting. I lost all my hair – eyebrows, lashes, all of it gone. I would look in the mirror and could barely recognize who was looking back at me. That being said, I always believed in life you are given as much as you can handle and I knew I could beat this. My teenage years ended up stripped of their normalcy, but little did I know that it would be the best thing that ever happened to me.
Even though I was done with treatment and feeling better, I was still reminded daily of what I went through scars, tattoos from my radiation treatment, the smell of saline would constantly bring back memories…
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why this happened to me and what my purpose was in this world. I knew in my heart that this happened to me for a reason. I would spend hours upon hours thinking about it. I finally came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t let cancer define me or get the best of me. So I did what seasoned runners do best – block out the pain. Yes, I recognized that what had happened to me – but it wasn’t something I wanted to talk or think about.
As I started my senior year of high school four years after getting that call, I signed up for a half marathon and raised money for a local cancer center that did so much for me and my family while I was sick. It was the perfect opportunity for me to give back to them – and it ended up being one of the best decisions of my life.
After finishing that race, it was the first time that I actually felt alive after my cancer treatment. I saw how much my body went through, what food can and can’t do for you – and how important nutrition plays in an athlete’s life.
Running gave me my life back. It was in that moment that I started to think like a runner, eat like a runner, be a runner. From there, I went on to take part in numerous running events – and also picked up cycling & swimming along the way. In the process of doing so, I saw how eating the right foods was so important and how this can improve your performance. For the longest time, I never wanted to share my story. I didn’t want to be the girl who had cancer and I didn’t want to let anything define who I was. I realized I am so much more than that and my story can help inspire other people to take control of their life.
Every time I get ready for a run or a ride, I always remember to take a deep breath, put the past behind me and leap into my future with my best foot forward.