More than three years ago, I was in Edmonton, Alberta, for a work trip. I was doing a cross-country tour and just arrived in the city on a hot afternoon in June.
Only three months away from my wedding, life was busy. Stressful. So when I kept getting phone messages on my cell phone from my dad while in Edmonton, I didn’t bother returning his calls as I thought they were wedding related.
I was just about to go out for a run to discover the city on foot. But I decided to first return his phone call.
My mom was the one who answered the phone. She used words such as “your dad, tumour, doctor appointments, not feeling well”.
She ended it with: “He has colon cancer.”
I was stunned. I felt like I was hit by a truck and couldn’t respond. I got off the phone quickly. I cried, ignored my sisters’ caring follow-up phone calls, and tried to imagine life without my dad. I then did what I knew how to do best: I went for a run.
I ran hard. I ran fast. I ran with a lump in my throat.
In true symbolic form, I ended the run struggling up a big hill.
Running was my selfish indulgence to deal with my father’s cancer. Whenever I needed to deal with my sadness, I laced up my runners. It gave me time to reflect and blow off steam.
One morning, following his first surgery in my hometown nearly three years ago, I was taking part in a boot camp session. The instructor led us to the little hill right beside the hospital. Inside, my dad was lying in bed, recovering from a long, tough surgery. Outside, I ran my heart out, often looking over at the hospital and thinking about how I’d be going inside later that day for a visit. I felt grateful for my own health and sad for my father’s.
Five surgeries later, my dad is cancer free and he’s back to enjoying the things he loves to do most: spending time with family, golfing, socializing with friends and writing. He’s also walking a lot these days, and has a pedometer strapped to his waist to witness how many steps he takes each day.
This Sunday, he’ll put that pedometer to good use. Our family will take part in the local Terry Fox Run. We are going to walk the 5-km route with my dad and then my sister and I are going to run the same 5-km route together.
I feel like Terry Fox did what he knew best and put it to good use. He ran his big heart out until he couldn’t run anymore. He proceeded to raise millions of dollars for cancer research, which has since turned into an annual fundraising tradition.
This Sunday I will run for my dad. For Terry Fox. And selfishly, for me.
If you’d like to donate to my walk, please visit the fundraising page at http://my.e2rm.com/personalPage.aspx?registrationID=2082794&langPref=en-CA