Sunday, November 10, 2013

Part III: MeriG Runs the NYC Marathon. Now what?

MeriG, you just ran the NYC Marathon! What do you do next?

Will first, you take a damn shower and eat some food. Because you're shaking from the cold, your organs are shutting down from lack of calories, salt and sugar, and you're probably going to pass out.

Next, you go right to a bar, order a couple of beers, and start celebrating. Because you're a champion, and sleeping is for losers!

Me with my medal and Diane with her....hamburger
Me with Denise, the amazing founder of the next big thing in fashion and sportswear!

Then, and only then, do you pass out in epic fashion.

I smartly took the next day off from work and did nothing except eat tater tots and mac n' cheese (two of my favorite foods ever!) with Betsy, get a massage, and then eat more food (including more mac n' cheese...) with friends and fellow-finishers Kevin and Mauricio.

Because you can never have enough macaroni and cheese. Write that down.

Tuesday and beyond has been business as normal. Except for this little gem that has rounded out my wall of "ME BEING AWESOME" very nicely.
Diane calls this my "Screw you for picking me last in gym class" wall. She has a fair point. what? 

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I have a big announcement that I've been leaking to some people. But I made the commitment in October, actually, to run the 2014 Boston Marathon!

But that's not all, I'm delighted to announce that I will be running as part of the Dana-Farber team, and have pledged to raise $10,000 which will support the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research. This program fosters scientific breakthroughs by advancing the work of researchers in a variety of basic research disciplines. These funds enable scientists at the leading edge of discovery to achieve better cure rates and to enhance patients' quality of life.

It's the 25th year that Dana-Farber has been running in the Boston Marathon, and -- especially given the events of last year -- I could not imagine a better time to support a more deserving organization.

There should be no mistake. I am excited to run the Boston Marathon. But I've run two marathons. I know that this is a goal I can achieve. This a fundraiser at its core. So why Dana-Farber?

I'm going to go a little more personal on this blog than normal, because I think it's important to understand this story to understand why it's so important I raise money, this year, for this organization.

In March 2012, I ran the NYC Half for the first time. My parents came to support me, but my Dad was not feeling well at all. He was in a lot of pain in various areas of his body and just seemed -- to me -- completely out of sorts. Despite that significant discomfort and pain he was in, it was important for him to come to support my running goals. This, after all, was my first major race since the injury that sidelined me in 2011. I had gone through lots of PT and training to get there, and he wanted to cheer me on.

The day after returning back home, he was rushed to the emergency room. 

After tests galore, my Dad was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells (which produce anti-bodies that fight infections). With this disease, groups of these plasma cells become cancerous and can cause significant problems to the immune system, organs and bones. In my Dad's case, by the time he was diagnosed he had multiple broken vertebrae and a damaged sternum, which had in essence begun to be eaten away by the cancerous cells.

The man literally walked around with a broken back to see me run.

At this point I went into overdrive. Once we had a diagnosis, I was determined to get my Dad the best treatment possible. You see, the internet said his life expectancy was short. The internet said he was going to die.

I got my Dad in with one of the world's premiere Hemotologists and Multiple Myeloma specialists, who does his research and sees patients at Dana Farber. It was Dr. Anderson who told me, when I showed up with a notebook full of interrogation questions to our first appointment, to stop reading the internet. The amount of work that's been done in the last 5 years? Is astounding. Yes, it's true that if my father had been diagnosed several years ago his life expectancy may have been very low. Today? The research done at Dana-Farber and other institutions has made him a healthy man a year later, with normal "numbers" and no reason to think this cancer should shorten his life. 

I commuted back and forth a lot in 2012, mostly attending appointments and spending time with a friend who was also going through some horrific medical issues with her family. If you read back to my 2012 entries, you'll see I was home a lot. That was no coincidence, and running remained -- as it remains now -- a very important calming force in my life when I desperately needed calm.

Run to the Rock Half Marathon: Aug 2012

When everything else felt in upheaval, training for the 2012 NYC Marathon gave me a sense of stability. And it gave me a positive outlet to focus on and talk about that could take me away a little bit from the pressure and fear I felt. 

Dana-Farber, throughout the entire process was amazing to my Dad and to my whole family. Thoughtful. Positive. Kind. Understanding. Organized. Respectful. My adjectives of praise could truly go on and on. Dana-Farber not only provides world-class care and conducts world-class, life-saving research, but they do it all with an eye towards the patient and the families. They could not have provided a better experience for us in our time of need.

My dad was eligible for a stem cell transplant which, based on his treatment plan, needed to happen around early November 2012. He insisted that we wait until after the marathon and he that -- despite a somewhat higher risk of infection by others -- he come to New York to be there to cheer me on.

My parents were packing for the trip into the city when I called them on Friday, November 2, 2012 to tell the marathon had been cancelled. My complete devastation was, in fact, a bit more than what met the eye.

My Dad had his transplant about a week later, and I was with him for a lot of his ordeal. Without going into too much detail, it was very intense. They basically take healthy cells from healthy areas of his body and freeze them. Then, they give him incredibly high dose chemotherapy, which kills off all of his cells in his bone marrow (in you? your bone marrow is what helps you fight off all infection and disease). He did this all in a little isolation room where we could visit him after scrubbing down and wearing masks and gloves at all times. Then they insert the healthy cells and they magically grow in his system! It's a very intense process and my dad flew through...although it took nearly 17 days of hospitalization to complete even in his record time.

Without early research on this procedure years ago...could we imagine a world in which this would have been possible? Imagine what they are working on now to help improve care and outlook for cancer patients in the future?

Like I mentioned, today my Dad is doing great, and he was there to cheer me on for the New York City Marathon. And he was healthy. 

Although I could write a book about this, I hope this [somewhat lengthy] post paints a picture of why I am so passionate about running in Boston, in 2014, for Dana-Farber.

Please consider a donation or passing this post onto your friends and family. Here's the link to donate:

I'd like to leave you with an excerpt from an email I keep from my Dad. He wrote it on the eve of what should have been the NYC Marathon 2012 and days before his transplant:

In a larger sense I will be as proud of you even if you didn't run the Marathon tomorrow, which is now caused by circumstances beyond your control.  I'm proud of you -- and you have every right to feel proud of yourself -- because you made the commitment, dedication and monumental sacrifices that it took to prepare for the Marathon.  Nothing..... NOTHING!..... can diminish your amazing accomplishment!  Except for a wayward meteorite nothing would have prevented you from completing the race.  Regardless of how long it took you to finish, your accomplishments to prepare for the Marathon will always be yours, and I will continue to be proud of you in the extreme.


  1. Wow. Your dad is an amazing, inspiring man! Best wishes for continued health.

    Love that you are running for a great cause. It makes it much more meaningful to have that behind all the miles. I can't wait to hear about your adventures leading up to Boston! I am sure this one will be magical.

    1. Thanks, Gianna! Looking forward to these adventures...except for the cold....