I write about my life and life itself seen through my eyes for who can write through the experiences of others if not their own?

Monday, June 01, 2009

More than a race, a mission

I don’t know how it started or what prompted Suzy Loughlin to organize a 5K that started at the Headquarters of Frontier Insurance Company on Lake Louise Marie Rd in Rock Hill and benefited the American Heart Association and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society some 17 years ago. It was only after Suzy’s father Walter Rhulen, an avid runner himself, passed away from Leukemia that the race was dedicated to his memory and to raise money solely to combat Leukemia and Lymphoma. Interesting how some causes are close to our heart before we know why.
That is how it was for me too.

I ran the Rhulen Rock Hill Run and Ramble (R4) for the first time in 1997. It was right there in the same place where I worked. I knew nothing about running, races or Leukemia and Lymphoma for that matter. I enjoyed running it so I volunteered to be in the committee for no other reason than to do something fun, with no real connection to the cause or the race itself. Then I began to raise money and I won 4 bikes as prizes in a row. I knew where the money was going and that was good enough for me but winning a prize was more my incentive than the cause, what the funds really did or who received them was of no concern to me. I knew nothing more about Leukemia or Lymphoma other than people died from it. I did not have to know more about it ….until one day.
It was one afternoon on late April. I had come home early after going to the doctor for a routine exam. The doctor called and asked me if I was home, I said yes, “good” he said … He asked if I knew what Lymphoma was. “What I raise money for every year”, I answered. “It’s a malignancy and you might have it.”
A month before the 2001 R4 I was diagnosed. I knew then what the race was for. I stopped complaining about the price of the entry fee, I knew first hand what the money towards research meant, I stopped demanding better shirts, more food or more water. It didn’t matter. What mattered is that I was running for my own cause and 700 other people - mostly in front of me -where running for the same cause with most of them not realizing how close to home it has come to some of us.
The race raises around $40,000 but in addition to that, in 2004, my friend Suzy created the patient fund in an effort to help me pay the sky rocketing medical bills for my treatment. That year many of my friends walked it in support. Thankfully only a beneficiary of the fund that one year, it now assists other needy people; this year a 9 year old suffering from Leukemia will be the beneficiary.
To some this is a race, to others it is a mission. I still shake my head in disbelief when I hear of survivors who while working at the site of the race, refuse to help out or do so reluctantly. Every year I am there, sometimes ready to run and sometimes unable to but still present. Every year I hear of somebody else being stricken by one of those two enemies and benefiting from this race. Every year, I pray and hope they will be around next year. Every year, I think of running the R4 again, year after year.
I hope you do too.
Register on line www.active.com or print application from www.rockhillrun.com

One of the people at the stage last year succumbed to his illness while awaiting a transplant. He was 17 year old. He is the one in blue shirt, baseball cap.