Running the Race.

Last week, I finished Kathy Van Riper’s autobiography called, A Race Worth Running. A friend had given me the book as a birthday present last year and I put off reading it for obviously a good year. I am not sure if that was God timing, but I think I got more out of it now–being a year later–as I have been through a bit more experiences in my physical body, such as the blood clot. I was so emotional reading the book that after I finished I was talking with my mom and just started crying (a variety of things), but I pointed to the book on the couch and said, “I don’t know why this book has made me so emotional.” Mom looked at me and said, “Probably because you can relate to what she went through.”

I thought about this. It is probably true. If you compared my life to Kathy’s life, there are some extreme differences: she was married, had two kids, battled an extreme case of breast cancer for ten years, and lived in CA her whole life–and yet we also had similarities: We both loved running (I can’t physically anymore, but love walking!); we both had treatments on the same chemo called Avastin (although she went through ten other different chemo treatments; I have only been through two.) We both had a blood clot with all the blood thinner shots and pills that follow; we both lost our hair; we both had radiation; we both were (and I still am) supported by an amazing circumference of family and friends who love endlessly and share support during the good and bad times; we both had to switch hospitals and doctors after years of care offered by another one; and we both have faith. Kathy’s faith is now complete. I am still on the journey.

Kathy’s “life verse” was Hebrews 12:1-2,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

I put in bold the phrase that she quoted most often in her journal entries that were at the end of the book. Kathy was a runner. Unlike myself who ran cross-country in high school but hated the races, Kathy thrived in races–anything from 5k, 10k to marathons. Whether you run or not, running as if in a race is almost the strength and perseverance mind-set for life: “[Forgetting] what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13b-14.

When I ran cross-country in high school, training was what got me through the races. For training, we would run on a variety of things during the week: grass, sidewalks through town, and other times, run up the mountain. I remember this one place…not quite sure where exactly in the mountains…but all of a sudden after you “warmed up” running the road, it just turned into a straight shot up the mountain. Rocks everywhere, so steep. It was literally a “breath-taking” view! 🙂 Coach always encouraged us to never stop. Never. So even though I was bringing up the rear end of the team while running slower than most people’s walking speed, I never stopped. After you got over that huge steep hill, things leveled out. Sure, it was still a mountain, but it was more like the hiking paths and less gruesome. Even after all this training, sometimes during the races I would want to give up. But then I would remember and say to myself, “Pull yourself together. You trained harder than this.” And I would not stop. Mental determination. The finish line was my goal. And that was the best part, because as you near the end you start to hear the cheers from everyone at the finish line. You pick up the pace, knowing that the finish line was just ahead. You forgot about the rest of the race…how much pain or how many people passed you. You strived to the end with all strength left in you. The verse that was so special to Kathy fit her life–her personality, her faith, and her race against cancer. The common phrase for people who have died from cancer is, “They lost the fight.” Indeed, our lives are worth fighting for but after reading Kathy’s book…I would not say that she lost the fight. Rather, she finished her race.

“Pressing on towards the goal”–I have shared Kathy’s favorite verse. I would like to share with you now my favorite verse. It is from II Corinthians 12:9-10,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I had started running in the 7th grade…slacked off here and there, and in college, I started going to the gym every night. Not much kept me from the gym each night in college. I think it was my own way of “pressing on” during those times. I loved it. Something happened after I graduated, I stopped exercising every night and lost a little determination for a bit. I lived close to some different parks in my neighborhood and started walking there. I loved seeing the season changes and talked to God while I walked a few miles. My old job was also connected to a mall which had an indoor mile lap and I would often walk during my lunch breaks. Please understand me when I say this…as this pertains to my life and mental determination: When I either give up exercising, or can’t exercise from health reasons, I see a change. Like my attitude changes about how I see things in life…big struggles seem even harder, and even little things seem so hard. I told my mom about Kathy’s life during our conversation that night I finished the book–how she would go on mile runs a few days after chemo treatments. I said, “I don’t think I could do that,” as if it made me feel guilty for not getting out for walks lately or getting a few other things done that were stacking up in my room (which it sort of did). Mom said I didn’t have to. We were all made different.

Then I thought back to times in Denver. I worked Thursday-Saturday eight hour shifts. The weeks of chemo I worked Thursday, chemo Friday and then back to work Saturday-Sunday. Regardless of how much I tried to talk to work about changing this schedule, it never did. For months this happened. I think that is where my favorite verses really set in…”When I am weak, then I am strong,” because it was almost my reminder of my semester in college when I was on chemo pills. I don’t know how I got out of bed then, or on the weekends of work after chemo. Definitely not on my own…but on God’s strength.

The thing is, most people look at me and say the exact thing of what I said about Kathy’s life, “I don’t think I could do that.” And I would tell you, “You don’t have to. We are all made different.” God gives me strength to endure, just like he gave his strength to Kathy. He gives it according to our need. I think that is what makes life so special. We all have our own race–our own life worth running…enduring through pain, encouraging others and in return receiving it, rejoicing with those who have crossed the finish line, and striving for what lies ahead.


Filed under Adjusting to NF2, Books and Movies, Family Times, Hospital Trips

11 responses to “Running the Race.

  1. Sherrie Wells

    Thank you for this today! It is so perfect! Today I am running the Warrior Dash with Jonathan. It is a 5K with obstacles, and is a fund raiser for ST Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It is made even more poignant by the fact that I was just last week diagnosed with cervical cancer. It totally floored me, but I am pressing on! Thank you for sharing your journey. I think of your family often.
    Love, Sherrie

    • mel

      Dear Sherrie,
      I hope you guys had a great race today!! I will be praying for you and your family during this time with the recent news. I will pray for peace, strength and healing. I passed the word along to my family as well. Take care and email me if you need anything else!

    • Timmie

      I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis. That race sounds like so much fun and I hope you enjoyed it, it’s inspiring to hear about your courage to press on!

  2. Timmie

    You are amazing! You inspire me, and I’m so appreciative of your blog. This post gave me goosebumps and made me cry, but it’s what I’ll be remembering as I run a 1/2 marathon June 23. Thank you so much for your insight, I can’t tell you how much I admire you!
    P.S. I have a couple postcards I’m sending to you, pen pal 😉

    • mel

      Hi Timmie!
      This is where encouragement is so neat. I am encouraged to hear how my posts encourage others in their lives! Where is your 1/2 marathon held? That is exciting! 😀 I am so excited to see you all so soon!

      P.S. Do you remember freshman year when we had a cross-country meet on our golf course in town? I could always hear your mom whistle across the course. 🙂 Then as I was rounding the last leg to go towards the track to finish, you found me and ran a little bit with me to cheer me on. 🙂 I remember that so clearly. 🙂

      • Timmie

        Oh Mel!!!
        Yes I do remember that race so well 😀 What a great day and awesome memories! I love that whistle of my mom’s, she has got to every race I’ve run and I hear that whistle and it makes me feel that much better and encourages me to keep going. Even these last three races I’ve done in March and April (7k, 5k, 10k) Having Lillie and Landon in the stroller watching me as I run by is another great motivation!

        The 1/2 marathon I’m doing is the Slacker Marathon in Georgetown, CO. It’s called that because it starts at the top of Loveland Ski area and you down to Georgetown. The elevation to start is at 10k feet and drops to about 8400 feet so it’s pretty much all down hill 😉 I figure if I’m going to do a race that’s 13.1 miles long at least I could do that one.

        I’m so excited to see you and get to spend time with you in 2 WEEKS!!!! See you soon,

      • mel

        Oh wow! That sounds like a great race!! And I bet the view will be so lovely!!! I always liked the Loveland area. I wish I had gone to Boulder more often. I thought there were so many neat things there. Oh well, just excited to get back and see any sort of mountain view plus friends and family!! 😀

  3. Trisha van riper

    I quite by accident happened upon your blog…Kathy was my daughter in law. You are right, you do have alot in common, your strength, your faith, your inner peace, and of course running! She was a remarkable person, I’m sorry you never met. She would be thrilled that her story touched your life, me too! I wish you well on your journey and I wish you joy..thanks

    • mel

      It is a remarkable experience to be writing you. I am so touched by your family and Kathy’s family and her story. What an amazing way God works 😀 Thank you for your encouragement!

  4. Judy

    What a journey you have been on. Wow, you are truly an inspiration. I send you my prayers and love. Thank you so much for yours. I loved the condolence card from you. Mouth and foot artists are amazing, as are you.

    • mel

      Thanks Mrs. A. 😀 I miss your sweet family. I want to try this summer to paint a painting with my mouth to see the experience. Truly amazing talent! Hope you are well!

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