I have maintained too much "radio silence" on these pages since finishing up in Dublin. Didn't write about my visit to Lancaster afterwards, and the painful trips up and down numerous staircases in train stations to get there. A beautiful campus, still, and a dramatically changed landscape both at the university and the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
Haven't written about my sporadic and infrequent attempts to get out and run during the winter. What can I say? I'm not a fan of treadmills, nor did I enjoy my few outdoor runs in freezing temps. Too afraid of wiping out on the ice, I think, and realistically just too easy to stay bundled and warm inside during those cold winter months.
And I'm very sorry that I haven't provided an update about my personal honoree from last year's marathons. It's important to keep telling Siona's story. She will once again be my personal honoree this year. "In memory of," though, instead of "in honor of." It is a sad but important distinction. As I'd written about last summer and fall, she never was able to get into remission again, never was able to find a treatment that could work in her favor. She passed away in the early morning of January 1.
I was fortunate enough to have been able to make it back to Seattle for her memorial service. A "celebration of life," really, at the Mercer Island Community Center, with scores of friends and family stopping by to pay their regards. There was music, a photo montage, a place to contribute thoughts or pictures to a scrapbook, a variety of food, and an amazing series of twelve statements that were in a picture frame as you walked in. I wrote them down before I left, because they were so strong, so beautiful. They demonstrated so much wisdom and courage that I wanted to take them with me.
Nigam updated Siona's website a week or so later, sharing Siona's Life Lessons with a larger audience. I want to include them in full here.
- Live with a smile
- Never give up and always try your best
- Be kind and accepting of people
- Don't complain about things that aren't fair
- Be happy with the small things in life such as hot cocoa at Starbucks or going to lunch with daddy, mommy or Mr Lampy (as she called her brother sometimes)
- Be positive and laugh out loud
- It's okay to fly into the sky as long as you have lived with a purpose
- Always be kind to spiders because they too have a mommy and daddy
- Always be truthful and tell it like it is
- Always enjoy moments big or small
- Be "just the way you are"
- Make a difference in people's lives
Would that we all had this kind of courage. This kind of perspective.
And so Nigam is running his first-ever half-marathon this weekend, the San Diego Rock 'N' Roll Half Marathon with Team In Training. He will be doing the Seattle RNR Half Marathon a few weeks later. Along the way, he and his family raised better than $11,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the top TNT fundraiser in the state of Washington. Already beginning to make a difference in people's lives.
I hope to keep Siona's words close to my mind and to my heart as I prepare for this year's marathon.
It's not about the running. That's part of it, to be sure, but it's about this community, too. These shared experiences. Twenty-one years ago I was given some pretty lousy odds of long-term survival, but I was able to beat my leukemia. Just six months ago, Siona lost her fight against leukemia, even though young children have some of the best odds of surviving. I'm running with Tyler again, barely two years removed from his bone marrow transplant, one marathon already under his belt. And Cory, who was diagnosed at five only to relapse at fifteen -- a bone marrow transplant worked for him, too, and he ran his first marathon twelve years later (in Hawaii, instead of Dublin). And there are so many others who I am just beginning to get to know, people who have either beaten this lousy disease themselves, or have lost a loved one to it: a son or daughter. A father, or a sister, or sometimes both.
And so I want to do another marathon. And I will want to keep doing these for many years to come. For myself, and for Siona, and for this amazing group of runners and their personal stories of triumph and sorrow. Together, I think, we can make a real difference.