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Running the Boston Marathon in Honor of my Husband’s Cancer Fight

Running the Boston Marathon in Honor of my Husband’s Cancer Fight
A year ago today we were in the midst of chemotherapy and radiation. Today seemed to be forever away.
What started out as a lump on my husbands neck quickly turned life as we knew it, upside down.
7 weeks (5 days a week) of radiation to the neck. Every day pinned to the table behind a fitted upper body mask, it would prove to be his toughest opponent ever. Friday’s would bring relief (knowing there was 2 days of no treatments) and then Sunday afternoons would see the return of anxiety as Monday mornings treatment loomed.
I will not ever be able to put into words what the staff at Dana Farber meant to us and did for him to get him through this excruciating period. His neck and throat burned raw from radiation with some chemo ‘on top’ to end the session. Each day was a new adventure. He lost the ability to eat and was forced to have a feeding tube inserted. A port for injections acquired a staph infection meant more needles than you can probably imagine. Multiple bouts of thrush, pneumonia as well as 3 different instances of C. diff infections. He lost his taste and the ability to produce saliva.
I didn’t update much except for milestones like the “halfway mark” and “We can see the finish line!”. Plus it was hard to see someone bigger then life being kicked around by cancer. He fought everyday and some days were definitely harder then others.
He was lucky that, as miserable and awful as he felt, there would be better days ahead. Those better days took months to arrive. Some of the damage from the treatment is permanent, other parts will take multiple years to heal. Right now it’s all about regaining taste as his saliva slowly starts to return. Imagine trying to eat with little or no saliva? He dropped over 80 pounds during treatment, and while he was back to 200 pounds, his weight as a Sophomore in high school, anyone that knew and saw him knew he wasn’t the same “never shut up” alway optimistic guy.
He told me day 1 and it was confirmed a bit later br Dr Hadad, that a lifetime spent chewing had caused his cancer. Terrifying to think how many friends we were surrounded by over ours years in the big leagues that chewed right along with him.

All of that brings me to the point of this letter. We were beyond blessed to be treated by Dana Farber Doctors and Staff. How can you ever repay those people for helping you through those dark days? You celebrate them. So I dusted my sneakers off and I will be running the 2015 Boston Marathon. I want to raise money for patient services and to bring awareness and research money to the head and neck cancer team. We learned during treatment that the majority of victims wait almost 10 months before seeing a doctor! Why? Because there isn’t much, if any, pain. Curt waiting 9 days, he knew. Our friend Dave who was helping us with our kids was diagnosed right in the middle of Curts treatment with almost the exact same illness. Do NOT hesitate, a day or two CAN matter. If you suspect something is “off” or “wrong”, see someone!

I know what it is like to be a patient and a caregiver fighting cancer. Please share our story with people you love and especially those who continue to using tobacco products.

Now for me. I’m approaching 50 and it is almost ten years since I ran my last Boston Marathon (this will be my 5th). I’m a little chunkier, a bit more out of shape, and much slower than I used to be. I cannot repeat what my brother said when I asked him to run with me again. I asked Curt if he would want to run the last mile with me. He reminded me that, no lie, he had his heart attack WALKING to greet me at the finish of the NY Marathon. So if you make a day out of watching the marathon know that I will be using your energy to get to the end. If you know me, short of being carried off the course, I will finish knowing that the money I raise will go to help the next family celebrate a year later like us.

Love and Hugs,

For more information on Shonda’s run for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, click here: http://bit.ly/1EbO5pz.


Shonda Schilling Shonda Schilling is the wife of retired MLB pitcher Curt Schilling.