What would Tracy want me to do? I often ask myself this question. My cousin, Tracy Link, battled breast cancer not once, but twice. Tracy died on May 1, 2013. She was 38 years old. Thirty-eight.
I hate cancer because of what that cruel disease and its treatments put her and those closest to her through. I may despise cancer, but I will always love my cousin Tracy. My love makes me ask myself: What would Tracy want me to do?
Missing Tracy Link made me willing and eager to train and run for a half marathon in her memory. No doubt, I will run for love – even 13.1 miles.
Running long distances can hurt. At times the pain is far more mental than physical. The mind is weak; it will occasionally try to convince you to give up. Your body is capable of much more; however, your damn brain just wants you to walk. That same brain probably also thinks that you should eat a doughnut. Or is it just my brain that needs to shut the hell up?
So, you are running and your brain is trash talking you worse than a softball team full of sassy little girls. Have you heard their chants lately? Harsh! And loud.
You have a choice: stop or push on. It would be easiest to allow the pain to take over, and do exactly what your brain and aching body wants – give up. Or, you can choose to keep moving forward. What is one highly effective way to keep your ass moving when you THINK that you cannot possibly go any further?
Stop thinking about yourself. Instead, focus your thoughts on someone that you love who is going through, or has gone through, some horrible shit. That person did not have a choice to stop. They had to go on. They had to fight. Do you know why? Because if they stopped fighting – they might die.
When a loved one dies, there is a desire to do something to honor them. It makes you feel good. Here is some running advice: If you are going to train and do a run for someone that meant a damn to you, do it with the right intentions. It is not about you and how far or fast you can go. Concentrate your efforts on your reason for running – your love. Love will push you farther and faster than you can ever do on your own. Trust me.
During a race, there are people along the streets holding signs to cheer the runners on. Some signs are meant for a specific person; some just want to motivate all of the runners. I sometimes zone out when I run, and peripheral things can be a blur. But other times I do try to be more aware of my surroundings; wake up, take it all in, and enjoy the experience more.
My favorite motivational sign is: “Finishing is your only fucking option!” Classic. But at Pittsburgh this past year, I did notice another sign that will be hard to forget: “Dedicate each mile to someone you love.” If that does not keep your ass moving, and simultaneously put a lump in your throat, you are emotionally numb.
I signed up to run the 2014 Pittsburgh Half-Marathon to raise money for the Susan G. Komen team. It was nice to feel like I was doing something, basically anything, to honor my Tracy.
Reality check: my actions mean squat. You know what really matters? Tracy’s group of loving caregivers who were there for her on a daily basis. The people who saw her go through every moment. All of us outsiders have no fucking clue what that was like. Me included.
A cancer diagnosis is a bitch. Chemotherapy, to try to save your life, seems like Hell on Earth. Killing yourself to try to save yourself. Terrible.
Tracy had an amazing, larger than life personality. A positive, full of piss and vinegar, hilarious Tracy is what I got to see — all but one time. That one encounter was one of the worst days of my life. My wake up call.
My Uncle and Dad were moving some of Tracy’s belongings. I followed them to my Uncle’s place; where Tracy was now living. She was really sick at this point. I had not seen her for quite a while.
I live with five kids. Our home is essentially a petri dish of festering germs at all times. I could not risk passing anything to Tracy. On this day, my older girls stayed in the car with my little ones. My Uncle told me that I could go in and see Tracy if I wanted to. I was unaware of how bad things were at this point. I was in such denial. I was eager to say see Tracy and say hello.
Nothing could have prepared me. Yes, I was grateful to get to see Tracy; but, one thing was perfectly clear to me as I drove away that day in tears. My Tracy was already gone. Cancer and then chemo had taken the Tracy that I knew and loved away. I hate cancer, and chemo can go to Hell as well.
Everything that I have ever done for Tracy has only consisted of – one day. One day in April 2013, I went to see her when she was very sick. She died shortly after that. Then, one day in May 2014, I ran a half marathon in Pittsburgh to honor her memory. Each time, only one stinking day.
Although my “one days” are well intended, and of course do hold some meaning, in reality they are NOTHING compared to what Tracy’s close group of caregivers did for her on a daily basis.
Caregivers are some of the most unselfish, compassionate people that exist. If you know someone that cares for a person who is disabled, critically ill, elderly, or whatever, I beg you to stop whatever you are doing that you are convinced is so vitally important, and ask that caregiver if you can do ANYTHING to help them. Or, I know that this is going to be a stretch for most people, how about tell them: Thank you. Trust me, it is the LEAST that you can do; but, I am sure that they will still appreciate it.
I was lucky to know Tracy. She was one of a kind. Because of her I hope to be a more considerate person. I just need to ask myself: What would Tracy want me to do? That question quickly makes the right thing clear.