Running has always come naturally to me. When I was twelve I entered my first road race, on a whim, and easily won. From that day forward, running became a constant in my life. I balanced my high school and college studies with year-round training for the cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams. During the daze of graduate school and my early career, I frequently chose to fit in a run along the Charles or the Hudson instead of lunch or a precious extra hour of sleep.
I was training for a half-marathon in 2008 when I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. “I’m in great shape!” I told people. “Except I have cancer.” As treatment took its toll, I was determined to keep running… or… jogging. I managed to finish that half-marathon, albeit in a “Personal Worst” time. And upon completing my treatments and surgeries, running was paramount to my physical recovery. When I got sick, I assumed I would never fully recover and be able to run as fast as I could before cancer, but I soon proved myself wrong. I ran the same half-marathon again in 2009 and set a new Personal Best time.
But I’ve come to believe that physical recovery is the most celebrated, yet least challenging, aspect of bouncing back from cancer treatment. While my Facebook feed was filled with stubbly-haired race photos and chatter about my next running goals, those closest to me were quietly helping me process the emotional losses of cancer. There were many dark days on the path to mental recovery, and even eight years later it sometimes feels like a work in progress.
Even less visible to those outside my inner circle was the devastating financial impact of cancer. Getting sick during the onset of the 2008 financial crisis was terrible timing! Just when I felt like I was beginning to get my residual medical bills under control, my husband got laid off from his job, and I started falling behind again. With nowhere else to turn, I found The Samfund through an online message board. Their grant reached me just in time to keep my bills out of collections. They helped me negotiate a payment plan and I was completely free of medical debt within two years.
Today, I am a Samfund success story: I have my dream job – running my own landscape architecture business and teaching at the Parsons School for Design in New York – and a three-year-old son who delights me every day. I’m not sure where I would be right now if I hadn’t gotten that lifeline from The Samfund when I hit financial rock bottom. Just as I never believed I would ever run as fast as I did before treatment, it once seemed a forgone conclusion that my career goals and financial health would be forever marred by cancer. Once again, I proved myself wrong, and thankfully, I’m now in a position to benefit The Samfund and help them create more success stories.
I was thrilled when Sam approached me about joining the newly-formed Team Samfund last year. Raising money for the Samfund while running hundreds of miles to train for a marathon is right up my alley! I set my sights on the Boston Marathon and set up my fundraising page. On April 18th, I had the unforgettable experience of making the 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton to Boston. I met my lifelong goal of crossing that blue-and-yellow finish line in Copley Square – but more importantly, I surpassed my fundraising goal and raised over $3,000 for The Samfund. Donations came from my high school, college and club running teammates; family and friends; colleagues and clients; fellow young adult survivors; even relative strangers who were moved by my story and inspired by The Samfund’s mission. While it was not my fastest marathon, it was certainly my most satisfying, buoyed by the support of my many donors and the entire Samfund community. I am inexpressibly grateful and proud to have found a way to benefit the Samfund just by doing something that I have always loved.