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Homework, Running, Chemo: Juliana Carvatt’s Inspirational Exercise Story

Guest post from Juliana Carvatt

In the last five years, my life has undergone a striking transformation. Five years ago, when I was 21 years old, I was studying elementary education at The College of New Jersey. After finishing my third year of college, I received the shocking news that a freckle on my shoulder was in fact melanoma. The cancer was found throughout the depth of the biopsy collected, which meant it was most likely advanced. The diagnosis was especially frightening because although I have fair skin, I religiously wear sunscreen and have never set foot in a tanning salon.

juliana's inspirational storyDuring 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.

I would describe the next year as the most difficult of my life.

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.

When I first started exercising, I could barely walk a mile.

GradChemo, Cancer, Runningually, 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.

My life today is nothing like I envisioned it would be five years ago…

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!

Juliana

Clinton, New Jersey

www.hopeloverun.blogspot.com

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