Monday, January 12, 2015

26 Reasons to Run - Reason #12

I run for my mother-in-law, Gilma

My sweetheart's mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer several months before he and I met... The common assumption at the time was that people with pancreatic cancer don't have long to live, because it is usually at an advanced stage by the time it is diagnosed, because it is in a difficult location and is complicated to treat... So, he asked me very quickly to come meet his parents. Like, basically on our second date.

I should clarify that we met online, and had been corresponding and talking on the phone for more than a year when we finally met in person. But, the second time we were actually physically in the same country, he took me to meet his mother... just in case.

Gilma already appeared quite frail by the time I met her. But looks can be deceiving and she was surprisingly feisty and engaged, though clearly very tired and uncomfortable. Gilma had reached the point in her treatment where she felt quality of life was more important than quantity, and the chemotherapy was making her so ill that she no longer had quality of life... so she stopped her treatment. She was told that she had at most another 6 months to live.

Whether it was sheer will power and determination, born of a deep desire to see her children married and her grandchild born (and to vote for Obama)... or, as Gilma would contend, because she ate ceviche whenever she was able.... but she held on for two more years.

I trained for my first marathon with Team In Training during the last few months of Gilma's life. We would spend the weekdays in Virginia, and every Friday night we'd drive to New Jersey to spend the weekend with her and my father-in-law. On Saturday mornings, we would sit together on the couch or on her bed, drinking coffee and chatting... and I would play the piano for her, and then I would go for a run. Returning rosy cheeked and sweaty, with snow on my shoes, she would reach for my hand as I walked by... and tell me she was proud of me.

Gilma died two weeks before my first marathon.

When I run in the winter, with the snow in my eyelashes and the cold biting my cheeks, I think of my mother-in-law and am so grateful that I had a chance to know her.

Mile # 12, I run in Gilma's memory.

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