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From 6 Cycles of Chemo to Running 6.2 Miles

By Stacey Carpenter
(second from the left in photo; also featured from L to R: Tom Van Ornum, Dorothy Bardin and Jason Lakritz)

It is hard for me to believe I am writing the following, even though the event has come to pass.

I ran a 10K on Saturday, April 5.

A 10K. 6.2 miles – which, if you’re keeping track at home is slightly more than one loop around Central Park.

Six months ago? I was in the midst of battling through 6 (really 6.5) cycles of chemo. The significance of the fact that I ran 6.2 miles is not lost on me.

Let me start with a little background: I was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in June 2013. Before that, I was a runner – and once I was cleared by my doctor in December of 2013, I knew I wanted to return to running. That’s when I started PT with the team at Finish Line Physical Therapy. We circled April 5 on the calendar long ago, and they have been nothing short of amazing in helping me regain use of my arm that had the port in it, regain my strength and prepare me for the run.

Back to Saturday: While on the course and as I made my way through each mile I reflected on each cycle of chemo.

As I approached mile 4, I started to get really tired, both physically and emotionally. The same thing happened in chemo cycle 4; I remember breaking down multiple times with family and friends.

As I approached mile 5, I thought, “Let’s not have a repeat of cycle 5.” Suffice it to say, that was literally one of the worst weeks of my life. I wrote a blog after this cycle titled, “How Not to Lose Weight in 4 Days”. It was so bad that at one point, my oncologist’s exact words to me were, ‘Stacey, you look like death warmed over.’

As I approached mile 6, much as when I approached cycle 6, I was so ready for the end, and I could see the finish line in sight.

And then I did it. I finished 6.2 miles and crossed the finish line!

An interesting observation: just as I had amazing people all along the way with me on my cancer journey – I had amazing people right by my side during the run. Reinsert the folks from Finish Line PT: Tom, my physical therapist, and Jason, my running coach (who also happens to be a PT) ran the entire race with me. Michael, the owner, and Amber, the asst. office manager, cheered me on and greeted me at the beginning and end of the race. (If you happen to be in NY and need a PT, let me know – I happen to know the best in the business.)

What are my takeaways from this experience? To start with, the body is an amazing thing that can be pushed to the absolute brink of destruction and come back better than ever. I believe the same holds true for our spirits.

While sick, there were some days that I absolutely just wanted to die and give up. There are many reasons I didn’t, and a huge part of why I didn’t was and is all of the amazing people who have supported me. Many people have helped me to keep going when I didn’t think I could. You loved me, you held my hand, you encouraged me, you showed up and told me I could do it, one day at a time.

On the other side of cancer, I believe more than I ever have that the greatest gift we get in life is to love one another. So … thank you. Thank you for letting me share this story, and thank you for helping me get to the finish line!

All my love,

Stacey

From all of us at Finish Line Physical Therapy, WAY TO GO STACEY!! You are an inspiration. We couldn’t be more excited for you in crossing the finish line, and we’re thankful to have been a small part in your journey.

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