Guest post from Juliana Carvatt
During the summer between my junior and senior year of college, I had multiple surgeries, first to remove the cancer, then to take out lymph nodes to which the cancer had spread, and later to implant a port that would be used to administer intravenous chemotherapy. I was advised to take the year off of school to complete a twelve-month immunochemotherapy regimen, but I chose to complete my degree while I did treatment. I was determined to graduate on time no matter what.
Although I hope to have many more years of living, I doubt there will be few, if any, as challenging as the one I spent going to school, student-teaching, and doing chemo. But with the support of friends, family, and some very accommodating professors, I made it, graduating summa cum laude, right on schedule.
A week after I completed treatment, I bought a membership at the YMCA and decided that I would never take my body’s ability to do miraculous things for granted. After all, it had fought cancer, recovered from three surgeries all less than a month apart, and endured twelve months of toxic chemo. If my body was capable of doing that, the least I could do was honor it. I found myself drawn to running, and although I was never a runner before cancer, after the fight, I somehow tied running to loving and appreciating my body. Starting to run was a turning point for me. It marked the start of a life of living after cancer. That’s why I believe that while treatment saved me from cancer, it was running that saved me from the devastating physical and emotional toll treatment took on me.
Gradually, I was able to do more. I tried not to get discouraged by how little I could do. I set a goal to participate in a 5K race that was eight weeks away. To prepare, I found a walk-to-run 5K training guide online and followed it carefully. On the days I didn’t want to get out of bed and go to the gym, I would ask myself, “Have you ever regretted going for a run?” My answer to that question has always been “No.” Asking myself this is usually enough to get me out of bed!
After I completed the 5K, I explored lots of other activities in and outside of the gym; kickboxing, skiing, pilates, white water kayaking, yoga, dance, and spin classes. I enjoyed these activities, but running was still my favorite. It’s been nearly four years since I promised to honor my body, and I feel I have kept that promise.
Last spring, I began chronicling my adventures as a runner/cancer survivor on a blog, called Hope, Love, Run. I love writing about my experiences and hope that my blog motivates others to push their own limits and overcome personal challenges. I also feel accountable because I share the goals I set for myself in my posts and reflect on them regularly.
Last summer, I pledged to run six miles every day in July so I could win the title of top point-earner on a site called Earndit.com. I successfully reached my goal of running six miles every day for a month, and reaching that goal gave me the confidence to begin training for a half marathon. I ran my first half last November, and this spring I trained for and ran another half marathon to support First Descents, a charity that encourages young adult cancer survivors to push their physical limits. I called this race my cancerversary half marathon, because the race date was within a few days of the five year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, a date I was once told I might not live to see.
it’s better than I ever could have imagined; I am so happy to be alive! I never thought anything good could come from getting cancer, but now I know that’s just not true. I have developed a passion for exercise and an appreciation for my body that many women spend a lifetime searching for. But most of all, I’ve learned that with a fighting spirit and some determination, anything is possible!
Clinton, New Jersey