Finish Line Perspective

Jody, me, Cynthia and SBS; just four mother runners with much to smile about.

One of the first pairs of women to our table at the ZOOMA Annapolis Expo on Friday was Cynthia and her BRF, Jody. Funny and down-to-earth, the two were chatting with us and cracking jokes within minutes of hanging out. I can't remember how it came up, but Cynthia mentioned she was hoping to convince one of us to run the half-marathon with her tomorrow, Saturday. She'd even put up a plea on our Facebook page a few days earlier.

No, I immediately thought, because SBS, her pal Courtenay, and I had run a humid, surprisingly taxing 6.65 that morning, and Saturday was supposed to be a rest day for me. What's more, my longest recent run was 7ish miles. I'd be breaking maaaaany of the rest-often, build-mileage-slowly rules I spew out here if I just up and went for 13.1 the following day.

But Cynthia mentioned she had cancer. Thyroid cancer. And that it had just come back after a six-year remission. So I asked her how fast she ran. "As fast as I'm supposed to run," she answered in a way that made me laugh. Yep, I thought, I could spend a couple hours with this woman.

So before I could let my tired legs stop me, I said yes. On the condition that I could videotape her for the video I make for ZOOMA on race day. (A task, it turns out, is much more challenging that I thought it would be; I have like 37 minutes of footage of my arm swing and our conversation, and about 17 seconds of Cynthia running. So that’ll be a fun project for another day.)

Within the first mile, she told me she had three boys. 7, 5 and a sub-two-year-old. The older two, Jack and Sam, are adopted from Korea. Within three miles, she told me she didn't just have thyroid cancer, but had cervical cancer, too. And two weeks before she was scheduled for a hysterectomy, she found out she was pregnant with her third son, her first pregnancy. Then we covered her husband, a Marine, who is now stationed at Quantico. But his job (and deployments) mean her family has moved quite a bit; every move means she has to find a new doctor she can trust and connect with.

It was a conversation where I kept silently asking myself, "Could I handle that? Could I handle that with her grace and sense of humor?"

Within a few more miles, she explained in more detail what it meant to her to have cancer back on her radar. "It feels like crap," she replied. Tests show her thyroid cancer has returned, but it's a not significant enough to operate on or hit with chemo or otherwise treat. She's in a period of "watchful waiting."

Yep. From a recent post on Cynthia's website.

Watchful waiting: talk about painful. You're not bad enough for us to take action, so we'll let this sinister disease just hibernate in your body until it gets worse. In other words, you’re not here or there. You’re not sick or well. You’re not healthy or unhealthy. You’re in limbo, and guess what? We don’t know how long you get to stay in this lovely holding pattern.

I’m not sure I would have the fortitude to be running a half-marathon shortly after receiving such news, but for Cynthia, a BAMR if I ever met one, there was no question. And there was no question she would enjoy every step. Friday's weather, a pea-soupy, rainy, tornado-y mix, had brought in a partly cloudy, slightly windy, crisp day that just forces you to run happy, to quote her shirt from the previous day.

The course was challenging but similarly rewarding; every uphill brought a suitably long, gentle downhill. Plus, we got to trot down the brick road of historic Annapolis and past a stately World War II Memorial. The views of the bay were delicious, as was the camaraderie among the runners. (There were a few turn-arounds, giving us ample times to cheer everybody on and high-five the pint-size cheerleaders.)

We only spent a couple hours together, but I confidently say Cynthia is a force. As she says in her blog, attitude is everything. And she's got the 'tude. Cancer clearly picked the wrong opponent. Again.

Cynthia isn't going to stay in a holding pattern for anything--or any disease. She’s forging on, with the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon on her schedule in October and plenty of stroller-pushing runs with Jody before that. She's got three boys to raise and two dogs (both female: she needed some estrogen in her house) to sweep up after and a husband to love and cherish.

The final hill. I was trying to get C to pass the woman in black, but turns out, the woman in black thought I was trying to get her to go faster. She thanked me after the race. So everybody wins.

She had run a 2:29 half-marathon, her second shot at that distance, 13 days prior to us taking on ZOOMA. (Another rule broken: I'm definitely not an advocate for two halves in two weeks.) But it was a rule-breaking kind of day, so I so wanted to help her nail another PR. Her stomach wasn't on board though, and when she said she had to walk around mile 10.5, I knew that was painful for her to admit. A pit stop, her second of the race, up the road gave her some serious relief, and we finished blazing up an uphill, crossing the line in 2:31.

A PR would've been a perfect ending, but I now realize Saturday wasn't about that. For her, it was about reminding every last cell in her body who is in charge. For me, it was about crossing an unplanned finish line and drawing such strength and inspiration from a source I didn't even know existed 24 hours earlier.

Thank you, Cynthia, for 13.1 of the most important miles of my running career; I can't wait to help you set a PR next year.

Live strong, Cynthia!

65 responses to “Finish Line Perspective

  1. I loved this post – I would not have stumbled across this page where it not for Cynthia’s blog, as I’m not a mom, but I love love love it. Attitude is everything, and cancer is just another hill to climb (I just finished my “round”). Go Cynthia, keep on inspiring and go moms who kick it in high gear. You all rock!

  2. Cynthia…as a hodgkins lymphoma survivor, i celebrate life as you do…full force! Live Strong…I LOVE, LOVE, your attitude.

  3. This article brought tears to my eyes…thanks for sharing. I will dedicate all my runs and my ( very first) marathon this Fall to this fellow mother of three with so much more on her plate than I could even imagine. Cancer sucks and you can beat it!!!!!!

  4. oh dear. awesome courage Cynthia, who clearly has it more together than the harried but healthy mother of three who posted my haiku in response to this because I had more than one window open.
    In regard to the run, sometimes you have to break the rules. . . .

  5. What an amazing story!!! Thank you for sharing and showing us again that some rules are made to be broken. Cynthia you are a true inspiration!!!

  6. That is frickin’ awesome! You go, Cynthia!!! Kick cancer’s a$$! And I used to live in Annapolis! Imagining that course, and totally jealous! 🙂

  7. Thank you for sharing! I heard you at the start line saying you were going to meet Cynthia around the 11:00/mile pace section of the starting corral but I didn’t know the story behind it!

  8. Great post! I got a chance to chat with Cynthia before leaving packet pickup. We chatted about how our youngest children put their entire bodies into running, kinda like Phoebe did on FRIENDS. Cynthia, you are AMAZING!

  9. I have tears reading this beautiful race report. Congratulations Cynthia on another great half marathon and Dimity for jumping in and going for something not on your radar. And this is why I LOVE Another Mother Runner. Thank you!

  10. Great job, really great story! I met you, Cynthia, at the start line with Dimity and Jody. I was the one that helped record a little video clip for you. I remember you saying ‘Wow, I feel famous!’ Well, you are now! Thank you for sharing your story with Dimity, and now with the rest of the Mother Runners. You are an inspiration, for sure. I’m thankful that I was able to soak up a few moments of your positivity. Thank you, and stay strong. 🙂

  11. Cynthia you are such an inspiration. That cancer has nothing on your positive attitude and running skills. Congratulations on race well ran. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.
    Dimity, thank you sharing her story. I met you at the Zooma Atlanta event and just think the world of you and Sarah.

  12. This is the kind of story that should be in Runners World! Cynthia, you are an inspiration to us all!!

  13. That cancer’s got nothing on you! I shared this with my aunt, a 1 and counting cancer survivor and total BAMR. I ran a half with her, before her 2nd diagnosis. . .i’m so proud to be part of this mother runner community, You keep on running!

  14. Cynthia is my cancer role model. She is genuine & full of light.
    So glad you had the opportunity to see how awesome she is.

  15. As you ladies know, it takes a lot (a LOT) to make me speechless. And this poignant, inspirational, tale of AMR Tribe bonding… did it. Pardon me while I reapply my mascara 🙂

  16. Dimity, thanks for running with my wife and telling her story. She couldn’t stop talking about how great it was to meet you and SBS. I’m sure that this race will be a permanent fixture on our calendar.

    1. Sarah, stop that! Only the 10k – no way, you ran 6 miles! How many other people in the world got up to run…and it wasn’t because they were late or being chased?! It was great to meet you!

  17. Wow! Dimity, thank you for sharing what I love about my BRF. She is an amazing woman and an inspiration to me everyday. Thru all the sweat of pushing a stroller for 8 miles (uphill both ways, jk) she always finds a way to laugh, on and off the road. Truly an honor to call her my friend! Luv ya BAMR.

  18. Dimity, I am so glad you were able to meet Cynthia, run with her and hear her story. This quote “Cancer clearly picked the wrong opponent”, is the best way to sum up Cynthia. She is a strong, well spoken woman who will let nothing get her down.

    Cynthia, awesome job racing and sharing your story. Russ and I chuckled last night that you had to talk for 13.1 miles…great job! 🙂

    You are my favorite sister-in-law….and a BAMR!

  19. Thank you for the morning cry. Screw cancer. Thanks for the morning inspiration. Cynthia and her family are in my thoughts and prayers!

  20. Very inspiring! Makes me realize those little annoyances I face aren’t even close to the real problems others face. Cynthia – you’re a srong and motivating BAMR. Dimity – you’re my hero for running those two runs in one day.

  21. I love it – Cynthia you are amazing and an inspiration. Dimity, thank you for sharing the story – it is one that must be told.

    Everybody wins – my new mantra.

  22. Thanks for sharing my story, Dimity! I had an incredible time running with you and despite not making my time goal and the pit stops, it really was one of my best races!

  23. I absolutely needed this this morning!!! Thank you for sharing this Dimity! I agree with Lisa…how could you pass up the chance to run with such a strong woman?!

  24. I watched the Annapolis weather from Denver, hoping it would clear up for the Zooma runners. Glad it did. Congrats and thanks to Cynthia for sharing her inspiring nicely run race, as well as her service as a Marine spouse. By my count, she’s carrying quite the load and she’s moving it around every few years. Thanks for allowing Dimity to share to your BAMRness with us all.

    Nicely done, Dimity.

  25. “Everybody wins” — I love that, Dimity. I’m so glad you ran with her. What a great story. Cancer is no match for a woman like Cynthia. I have a feeling she will run many more 13.1.

  26. The word of the day: perspective! Thank you for sharing your story, Cynthia. And thank you for telling it so well, Dimity. Now let’s see how long I can go without bitchin’ that my gut still hangs out over my running clothes and my husband doesn’t wipe down the counter and my kids leave their dirty socks around the house…?

  27. I saw you both running at the last turn around. A truly strong woman. Keep fighting and keep running! See you next year at Zooma.

  28. The caption: Everyone wins. That’s the epitome of running like a mother. We all push each other. Everyone wins.

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