Monday, October 17, 2016


If you follow me on Facebook, then you most likely saw the exciting news that I RAN TEN MILES (not a 10K, that's "only" 6.4 miles) on Saturday. TEN. MILES. The farthest I have ever run before - and, honestly, the fastest that I've run several miles. I never thought I'd say this, but it was awesome.
[and my time was, like 2:01 - I didn't get to the start line until 10+ minutes after the run started]

With the completion of 10 miles, I might as well tell you all: I AM TRAINING FOR A HALF MARATHON. That's right, I am purposely going to run 13.1 miles. My friend & running partner, Karen, and I are going to run the Disney half marathon the first Saturday of January (at Walt Disney World). We are running with Team in Training, the fundraising arm of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

I first heard of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training over ten years ago when a friend from college was training to walk a half marathon. Good for her, I thought - followed quickly with, I don't think I'll ever do that.  Over the years, I would receive postcards in the mail about training events starting and muse on the option. Ultimately, the postcard would find it's way to trash.

A couple of years ago, a student walked into my office at the University of Arizona extremely passionate about LLS. His daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society played an instrumental part in supporting his family through her treatment, which included a bone marrow transplant. Ben's energy was contagious. He was so committed that he planned to switch careers (hence his return to being a student) from investment banking to family studies/human development. It was at this time (May 2015) that I thought I could connect student development opportunities to the LLS mission.

In June 2015, Dan was offered his dream job at Michigan State. We made the decision to move and packed up in less than 2 months. The day we prepared to move from Arizona (July 28, 2015), we received news we never saw coming: Dan had T-cell lymphoma caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. We learned it was "Stage 3" - effecting lymph nodes in his neck and spleen. Later that fall, the abnormal T-cells were found in his spinal fluid.

Through it all, Dan had the best attitude. Continuing to work, plan, laugh - and LIVE even though treatments interrupted the schedule every few weeks. He viewed cancer as an inconvenience.

In January 2016, he was diagnosed with another disease, HLH (hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis) - even rarer than the cancer. He was declared in remission from the lymphoma in February. Long story short: the lymphoma came back with a vengeance in early July, and Dan passed away within 48 hours.

That week before he passed away, I had come home after a run - my longest so far this year (45 minutes). I was chatting, and wandering around the house, and he was lying on the couch (his back had been causing him severe pain for weeks). He reached out his hand to stop me. He pulled me to sit down next to him, and he said, "I love you."

I said, "Why do you love me?"

He said:
I love that you run. 
I love that you have dance parties in your office.
I love that you are doing things - and living life - because I can't.
I just love that you live.

So, I run ... not because I love running; but, because I can.

I am running a half-marathon because I am a good friend - and this is one of Karen's bucket list goals. We are running the Disney half marathon because if you're going to run a half marathon, why not run at Disney?

I am running with Team in Training because I want to support the research done for blood cancers. Cancer treatment options have come so far in the last 20 years; Dan was the recipient of good medicine and great care. I hope that together we can support even more advances so that those facing a diagnosis still experience the fullness of LIFE in the midst of treatment.

Karen and I have committed to raising $5600. Please join our team to cure blood cancers! If each of my 280 friends reads this and gives $20 - we are at our goal! 78% of each dollar raised goes directly into funding LLS research and providing financial assistance to families struggling with the cost of treatment. To support the cause for a cure:



PJ Colando said...

life as a miracle - amen!

marlashifflett said...

Hi Jessica! Congratulations on your running! We are thinking of you and praying for you. Thank you for sharing your life with us. I clicked on your URL to donate on your page and I got an error message. It said to double-check that it is correct. Thanks! Marla