Sunday, April 28, 2019

In Boston, stepping up for life

Finishing first lap, Chestnut Hill Reservoir
My sister drove me to so many doctor visits and hospital trips that I lost count, so it was a great counterpoint for her to drive me to something super fun and celebratory: The Steps for Life 5K to benefit The Gift of Life, the organization that got me my bone marrow donor.

I drove to Newton last night after playing two hours of tennis. I'm still a little under the weather – this cough/cold that's going around is a long one – but I wanted to do it. I haven't been running very much but thought I could do 3.1 miles, and I wanted to do my small part in raising some money and showing up to honor The Gift of Life.

This morning around 8:30 or so, we went over to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, where I got my number, shirt, and an orange ribbon reading "Recipient."

Over at the Dana-Farber booth (they were a sponsor), it was exciting to meet two women who work in the department that finds matches for patients. I said hello to Dr. Corey Cutler, Dana-Farber's director of stem cell transplantation, and a speaker at the event. I told someone else the story of how Denise ended up donating for me after getting swabbed at to a donor drive for the late, great jazz saxophonist Michael Brecker, who, sadly, could not find a match.

At an emotional ceremony on a makeshift stage, a recipient and donor met for the first time. Then donors and recipients, including me, went up to join them. I was afraid I might recreate my fall UP the stairs in the Paris Metro and trip going up to the stage but I hopped right on up.

I had been watching the forecast and expecting rain, but it was just cloudy and cold, with a little wind. We did group warm-ups to music – lunges and jumping jacks and waving our arms around, very festive  – and then the runners and walkers (and some dogs with their people) went up to the track so we could go twice around the reservoir.

I can't say I really trained for this event, but I figured that 3.1 miles would not be so bad. The first time around was pretty easy, but I was feeling it the second time around. I thought of walking for a couple of steps, but my mind, and my momentum, was attached to my slow jog. I'm kind of strict with myself. "You didn't walk when you had leukemia during a 10K, and you're not going to walk when you DON'T have leukemia and are going half that distance." Plus, the tiny bit of momentum kept me from walking; it was easier to keep doing my so-called run.

The finish line, around the bend, looked far away. I'm glad that Diane took my photo after my first time around. She also took one when I finished, but I deleted it from her phone. (The equivalent of how our mother used to rip up the photos of herself that she didn't like.) Note to self: Next time take off the transitional glasses that get so dark outside that I look like a Blues Brother.

I was kind of bent over and not looking so great when I finished. I motioned for Diane to come over so I could hold onto her shoulder while we walked away from the track so I could get some water and a very welcome bagel with cream cheese. That Diane sure has a good shoulder, literally and figuratively.

I felt like I needed to stretch out my back, so I found a little piece of grass and lay down. A Git of Life staffer came over and asked if I was OK. I said yes, just stretching. He asked if he could help me up, and, well, maybe you could guess that I said no thanks.

If I do another 5K, I think maybe I'll practice a little more. I miss the way I used to feel on those long runs, but the neuropathy in my feet makes them harder to do.

When I lamented my slower pace these days, Diane pointed out that I'm the only four-time stem cell recipient who played two hours of tennis, drove two hours to Boston and then ran three miles. As our father would say, "Good clear thinking."

2 comments:

Karen Newcombe said...

You rock Ronnie! Hi from everyone at Gift of Life!

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