By Carol Spaeth-Bauer
This year I will run my first full marathon, but getting here has not been an easy journey.
I’ve been a runner most of my life. I started running when I was in high school and I was good at it. I enjoyed it, so I kept running. Now, more than 30 years later, I’ve run countless half marathons and 5K’s, raised a daughter who is also an avid runner, and this year I am going to check a full marathon off of my bucket list with my daughter at my side.
A few years back, I was running, working as a journalist at the Mukwonago Chief Now newspaper in Mukwonago and having fun. But then I discovered a significant lump under my right arm. At first, I thought it was just a swollen lymph node and that it might go away on its own, but it didn’t. It became uncomfortable, so I went to see my doctor, and after some tests I was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer.
When my doctor told me the news, my thoughts started to race. How far is it spreading? How much longer will I have with my kids? Would I ever be able to run again?
After going through surgery to remove 26 lymph nodes from my arm, luckily only one had been impacted by the cancer. The doctors found no other evidence of the disease, so they put me on a clinical trial.
Five years later, I am still cancer free, when statistics said I would have less than a 10 percent chance of surviving. I believe part of that was my mentality throughout this difficult and life-altering process, as well as a little divine intervention.
You see, when I was diagnosed of course I cried, I felt bad, I was devastated, but I took control of the things I could control. I kept my body strong. I stayed mentally tough. I looked at my family and knew I could never give up.
I was in the process of training for a half marathon when I was diagnosed, so I continued to train for it while going through treatment. I slowed down. I suffered numerous injuries as I fought to keep my body active. My finish time was no longer important, I just wanted to make it to the finish line.
My daughter and I had started running races together shortly before my diagnosis. After I started going through treatment, my pace slowed as hers improved. She logged more miles as I ran fewer. It brings tears to my eyes knowing she chose to pick up my baton and run when I couldn’t.
A few months ago, I heard a story on the radio about what would you do if fear wasn’t a factor? I had been toying with the idea of running a marathon for a long time, but I was always too scared to do it, especially with the injuries I’ve endured since cancer entered my life. This year, I’m facing that fear head on, marking five years cancer-free with my family at my side, by running in the Community First Fox Cities Marathon Presented by Miron Construction.
I am making the choice to not let this cancer rule my life. That determination is what will help me get to the finish line. I’ve been told I’m an inspiration, and I never intended to be one, but if that’s the role I’m given, I’ll do whatever it takes.