Running My First Marathon to Honor my Mother's Memory
My entire world fell apart on July 1st of 1996. My Mother, my best friend and the glue that held our family together died after her two-and-a-half-year battle with ovarian cancer. I was just three weeks shy of my 15th birthday. My Mom was only 48.
We had no family history of ovarian cancer and my Mom didn’t fit the risk factors. As is typical of this disease, it’s often diagnosed in its later stages, when the cancer has spread, and prognosis is grim. We didn’t know the symptoms – bloating, abdominal pain or discomfort, indigestion, changes in bowel movements or appetite, fatigue – which often are ignored since everyone experiences them from time to time.
For the two-and-a-half years after my Mom’s diagnosis, our new normal was much different. She would have overnight chemo treatments in the hospital – and I would stay with her, often making trips down to the cafeteria for a late-night snack. She lost her hair in large clumps and finally purchased a wig that resembled Heather Locklear’s hairstyle at the time. We lovingly referred to it as her “wigwam.” We researched incessantly to find out all that we could about ovarian cancer, including holistic treatments that might help support my Mom’s healing. She tried the Macrobiotic diet and shark cartilage supplements (after reading a book called “Sharks Don’t Get Cancer”). She read all about Gilda Radner, the famous Saturday Night Live actress that died of ovarian cancer – and sought out any information she could find about survivors. But it wasn’t enough.
While I feel there is more education and awareness today about ovarian cancer than there was when my Mom was diagnosed, there is still so much work to be done. There is no definitive screening method for detecting ovarian cancer, which is why listening to your body and being aware of the symptoms that often only “whisper” is so incredibly important. Annual pelvic exams and pap smears do NOT screen for ovarian cancer! At 46, my Mom was considered to be too young for such a diagnosis. Ovarian cancer was thought to be a post-menopausal disease. Yet, today, younger and younger women are being diagnosed.
Watching ovarian cancer rob my Mother of so much - whittling her body down to only skin and bones, stealing her dignity, her voice, her laughter, her future, our future – was absolutely heartbreaking. Nearly 24 years later, I still carry that loss with me every day. It became a defining point in my life – and I never want another grandmother, aunt, mother, sister, daughter, dear friend to experience the devastation of this disease.
THIS IS WHY I’ve signed up to run the New York City Marathon this year in support of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and their mission to save lives by fighting tirelessly to prevent and cure ovarian cancer and to improve the quality of life for Survivors. I am running for my Mother, Carol Jean McCommons, and for all the other women around the world who are currently battling, those who we’ve lost too soon and the incredible survivors that give us all hope that we can someday beat this disease once and for all.
Thank you in advance for your support and commitment to helping me get to the start line on November 1st. I promise to carry each of you with me every step of those 26.2 miles to the finish – and I hope to make my Mother proud in the process!
Together, we can make a difference!