Monday, June 29, 2009

For Helen...

CANCER to 5K lost a teammate this past Friday. After a year of fighting hard, enduring clinical trials to get her recurrence under control; having a successful bone marrow transplant and recovering only to have cancer rear it's ugly head again, Helen is gone.

What can I tell you about Helen? Young (early 20s), vibrant, beautiful smile, beautiful face, beautiful laugh. She took life in stride. Helen had to take a break from College to fight her cancer diagnosis and when we were training together, she would show up on Saturday mornings after a long shift as a hostess at a popular local Irish Pub (in high heels) and run with the group. (in running shoes, thank gosh!) Even her complaints were good natured - How is that for "attitude with a smile"?

Helen's fight with this 3rd recurrence was incredibly hard on her. Several CT5K Teammate had chosen to run the recent Survivor Harbor 7 race on June 14th in support of Helen.

A close family friend and fellow CT5K teammate told me, when she saw Helen last week and told her "You ran 7 miles Sunday and did a great job!" - Helen smiled and laughed a little. Helen had just been moved to Hospice care on Thursday, so to have her gone on Friday afternoon was shocking and sad.

But Helen left on her own terms - it bears reapeating over and over again:

Having the courage to decide when to stop treatment is one of the bravest and most powerful things that a Survivor and their families can do. Helen's courage is another powerful example of what it means to LiveSTRONG.

I told the team in a brief email on Saturday afternoon: "Helen has moved on, beyond the struggle, beyond the fight - on her own terms - down a new path. Next run or walk you take, take a moment and remember our teammate Helen and smile and give your finish everything you've got - show the world how you LiveSTRONG! Helen would want it that way."

So on Saturday night, myself and fellow CT5K teammates Jessica T. and Paula S. went out and ran the Potomac Twilight 4-Miler Run.

Potomac Twilight 4-Miler: 42:34

They started this race an hour later this year to eleviate some of the "heat" from last year and that seemed to help but it was still pretty hot at 7PM. I took the pace out easy since this was going to be a "fun run" and supposed to be Zone 2 all the way. Got to see Paula and Jessica several times (two loop - out/back course), which was nice because they are faster runners than me. Spent my time watching other people start/stop - sprint/walk around me in the back of the pack while I just focused on maintaining my race plan and a steady pace until we hit the last water stop.

I decided, in honor of Helen, I was going to pass as many people as I could in the last 1/2 mile. I just slowly picked up my pace - passing runner after runner, many of whom were now run/walking or slowed down due to the distance/heat. With about 600 feet to the finish line (straight-away) I passed a woman in lavendar who had just started walking and a guy in red who had been constantly in front or behind me sprinting and then having to walk the entire race. I was determine that these two would not pass me. Woman in Lavendar started running as I passed her and I let her pull ahead just a little and then got right behind her. As happened every other minute for the last 3.5 mile RED DUDE blew past us at full sprint. I knew that there was no way that he was going to last at that speed for another 500 feet so I eased out from behind Lavendar Lady and eased the pace up focusing on "just a little bit faster" in my head. With about 200 feet to go and Lavendar Lady well behind me, I passed Red Dude as he blew apart from his latest sprint and kept the pace up to pass 2 more runners before crossing the line.

5 minutes off last year's race time - that one was for Helen!

Rest in Peace, Helen. My thoughts and prayers with your family and friends. You will live on forever in our hearts.


Kelly's runner said...


So sorry to hear about Helen's passing.

I lost someone that I was very close to last year after Kelly suffered her 4th relapse of Leukemia.

Your perspective about the courage it takes to stop treatment is a great example of how to Livestrong.

I will dedicate my next run to honor Helen.


B.o.B. said...

Wow, just came across this from Run Faster Mommy. So sorry for your loss. You are a great friend and I am sure Helen knows that.

Anonymous said...

I too just found your blog. I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Helen's family.