I’ve had a year filled with challenging (and enormously fulfilling) transitions: from cancer patient to survivor, marathon supporter to finisher. My SGH family has supported me through it all.
In April 2017, I had the final infusion of my treatment. Thankfully, I had an amazing team taking care of me from the Vernon Cancer Center at Newton-Wellesley Hospital (NWH). It was their support and dedication that helped me fight cancer, and the opportunity to give back that brought me to the finish line last week on a cold and rainy day in Boston.
Growing through Transition
The most difficult parts of treatment for me were the transitions into and out of treatment. I struggled, at first, coming to terms with needing to start treatment right away. I had plans and was on the cusp of new opportunities here at SGH that I didn’t want to miss. Going from patient to survivor was also harder than I expected. I was conflicted about what to do next — close that chapter of my life and move on or deliberately carry that experience along with me.
On the day of my final infusion at Vernon, after a long fourteen months, I planned to quietly stop and ring the ceremonial bell with my family to mark the end of my treatment. To my surprise, what felt like the entire staff came to the lobby and formed a circle around me. As I looked around at individuals who had carried me through, I saw the full depth of caring and support that I had received. Many joined me in tears, both from happiness and also from our conflicted feelings about saying goodbye.
Thanks to that moment and many like it, I decided to challenge myself and seize new opportunities without overthinking. Embracing the journey first meant volunteering as a patient partner supporting Vernon’s Team NWH at the Boston Marathon last year, and ultimately signing up as a runner for this year’s team.
Learning From the Journey
It wasn’t just confronting cancer that changed me, it was also the journey I took with the care and support I received. I was reminded of this during my marathon training.
I started out strong, felt great, and convinced myself I could turn from a walker into a runner. I started to push myself, but then things changed dramatically. My only lingering side effect from chemotherapy – issues with my feet – became more substantial. Suddenly, my plan was falling apart. As I found myself starting to slide into an overwhelming feeling of defeat, my Vernon experiences were a life vest. I remembered a daily mantra I learned from the center’s psychologist that helped me keep a positive attitude: “Am I doing the best I can with what I’ve got right now to make today the best day possible?” If “right now” is only 50 percent, can I make it the best 50-percent day possible? I remembered that my journey is unique to me and I embraced the challenge. I stepped up to the start line in Hopkinton grateful to be able to participate, ready to challenge myself to do my best, and committed to being grateful for whatever my best was.
Grateful for My Teams
When I crossed the finish line on Boylston Street in Copley Square, it was thanks to the support and encouragement from so many. I am grateful for the opportunity to raise money for a program that meant so much to me during treatment and continues to help and support me in survivorship. Together, Team NWH has raised more than $130,000 for the Vernon Cancer Center.