Cancer is a mean son of a bitch. It came for my Dad 8 years ago. While he endured treatment, I looked at my young sons, still in diapers, and I tried to imagine their lives without him. I needed to hurt so I didn’t have to imagine that world for my kids. So I ran. I ran because I hated running almost as much as I hated cancer.
I ran every day.
I hate cancer. I hate running. I hate cancer. I hate running.
I hate cancer. I hate running. I hate cancer.
I hate cancer. I hate running.
I hate cancer.
Dad dodged cancer’s lethal bullet.
And I became a runner.
My husband and I have four sons. Raising them is the most important thing I’ll ever do. But I am still Bethany. Beneath the title of “Mom” and all that fits under its oversized umbrella, Bethany is still in there. The girl who loved bike rides in the woods behind our first house. The girl who was a tomboy and loved hitting line drives. The girl who loved doing cartwheels on the beach. The girl who loved spelling bees and Honors English class. The girl who loved telling a story funny enough to bend her friends in half with laughter. I run to connect with her. I run so I remember she still exists.
I run because I’m still faster than my first son….though not for long. I run because I can still run farther than my second son…but he’s quickly closing that gap. I run because my third son wants me to run after him, embrace him, and shower him with the kisses and tickles that only a Mom can give. I run because if my fourth son isn’t strapped into a stroller, he knows only one speed…fast…and it falls on my shoulders to chase him.
I run because I’m still out to impress that boy I fell in love with almost 20 years ago. The one I married who’s given me four babies. I run because he encourages me to run. I run because he runs, and I love sharing it with him. I run because he loves the way my butt looks in my jeans.
I run because I gained so much weight with my pregnancies that I couldn’t run. It wasn’t the kicking of my unborn sons or my need to pee that woke me during the night. It was my desire to shed the imprisonment of the human incubator I had become to run again.
I run because I like to race. I like the training. I like the race day butterflies. I like to PR. I like the post-race exhaustion. I savor the post-race beer with dinner.
I run because I make kick ass brownies from scratch, and I like to eat them.
I run because, if I hear one more, “Ew, I don’t want this dinner,” I will curl up in a corner and cry.
I run because my second son runs cross country. And I get to train alongside the little boy whose imagination knows no boundaries. And, when I’m running with him, I can take off my Mom hat and splash through the trail puddles with him. Then I can put that hat back on and feel my eyes fill at the sight of this boy I grew from scratch growing up and away from me…the way nature intended but my heart doesn’t yet know how to accept.
I run because being an adult is hard. And being a runner makes it less hard.
Running brings me clarity. Balance. An outlet. Trusted confidants. A feeling of power. A sense of achievement. Strong legs. Toned arms. A healthy heart. More freckles. Smaller boobs.
I run because a little piece of me would die if I didn’t…and it’s the piece of me I like the most.
Cancer remains a mean son of a bitch. But running….running has become a friend for life.
This post originally appeared on Jennifer Luitwieler’s website on May 1, 2012. Thanks to Jennifer for allowing me to pause from the noise of my life to reflect upon what began as my coping mechanism…and transformed into my lifeline. Many happy miles, Jennifer…
This piece also ran in the Huffington Post on September 20, 2012 in the Healthy Living Section.