Like so many others, I always dreamed of completing a marathon. I had run half-marathons, but not yet a full marathon. So six years ago my wife and I set off on a morning training run. We had no idea where that run was going to take us.
At that time, I was a successful 34-year-old attorney with a beautiful young family. The world was my oyster. However, as we hit the halfway point of our run that morning a pain began to develop in my hip. Over the next several months the pain worsened and the doctors were unable to pinpoint it source. Then we got a call from my family doctor asking me to come in as soon as possible. The news was bad—I had osteosarcoma, a cancer of the bones. The cancer had completely eaten away the inside of my femur, leaving only a 2mm shell.
Since those dark days, my body has gone through a lot. First there was an exploratory surgery. Then there were the first rounds of unsuccessful chemo treatments. After several months, my femur pulverized while I was walking. After that came an emergency surgery to remove the top of my femur and replace it with a titanium rod and a complete hip replacement. At that time I also started a new, experimental chemo treatment regimen. After 18 months of high dose inpatient chemotherapy, it looked like we were successful.
For a year I had the chance to rest and recover. I began to gain strength and grow hair. But cancer wasn’t done with me. A follow-up with my oncologist disclosed nodules growing in my lungs. And the hits kept coming: a couple of months later I developed an aggressive leukemia as a result of the high doses of chemotherapy I had received.
The standard chemotherapy treatments had very little chances of success, so I went directly into trials. Miraculously, the trial worked and I went into full remission. That opened the door for the doctors to do an experimental bone marrow transplant. Since that time, I have been resting and regaining my strength.
Over the past six years I have been blessed by the support of many people. I have benefited from the prayers of people around the world. My community has rallied around us. And our friends and family have stood by us through all of the good and the bad. Despite this support, participating in trials can be quite a financial burden, and at the beginning of my treatment, my wife and I had to be separated from our three young children. Then one day a charitable foundation – Lazarex Cancer Foundation – entered our lives and gave us financial assistance that allowed us to be together as a family during my treatments.
Which brings me back to the Big Sur Int’l Marathon. Each year, Lazarex’s Team for Life has a number of runners in the Big Sur Marathon. Last year I had the opportunity to give a little back to Lazarex by being their Very Important Patient. We got to come to the Big Sur Marathon and support that great charity. While there we got to meet so many interesting people from throughout the United States and even abroad who shared my passion for running. My wife, Melissa, and my bone marrow donor (and sister) Lisa, ran the 10.6 mile, and about forty other family members and friends competed in the various events of the weekend, resplendent in their Team Ben t-shirts. It was a beautiful weekend, filled with beautiful people, and despite the fact that I probably will never be able to run again, I was uplifted by the spirit of the event.
This year I will be at the Big Sur Marathon once again. I will be proudly supporting the Lazarex Cancer Foundation, which provided so much hope to us. And this year my wife Melissa will be running her first full marathon in my honor. My three children, ages 4, 7 and 9 will run in the Big Sur Kids Fun Run, and friends and family will be participating in the other run/walk events of the weekend, all wearing Team Ben or Lazarex Team for Life shirts. If you see me at the Lazarex tent, please stop by to say hello.
Six years ago as I set out on that training run with my wife, I never would have guessed where that run would lead me. Running in an event like Big Sur was a dream of mine that I hope to one day fulfill. But until that time comes, I will live out my dreams through all of you.
Join us, http://www.teamforlifelcf.org/