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Published on April 30, 2019

upper view of a group of race runners in a circle stacking hands

#TryItTuesday: Pink Courage, One Step at a Time

Every year, the one event that I ALWAYS put on my calendar is the Avera Race Against Cancer. For me, each race day is a celebration of another year – and a reminder of second chances.

When I first ran in the Avera Race some 15 years ago, I had NO idea the impact this event would and continues to have on my life.

Years before my cancer diagnosis, it was more for a personal challenge with a good cause. I had no idea that memories from this first race would soon be what gave me the courage to run my personal race with cancer.

Fast forward to 2009.

There are two memories from the 2009 race that continue to give me Pink Courage.

The first memory: I remember scanning the crowd, looking, looking and looking for someone who was like me, wearing an Avera Race Survivor Shirt. I was about halfway through chemotherapy, and my heart needed to see that other women had made it to the other side of treatment. Meeting and seeing other survivors living a life beyond cancer was inspiring and encouraging, offering me great hope.

The second memory: Before the race, the cancer survivors gathered and walked what I called "Survivors Lane." That experience was a pivotal point in my cancer journey; it was at that moment I called myself a survivor! Surrounded by clapping and cheering of our family and friends was such an amazing and inspiring experience.

A few years after my breast cancer treatment, I decided to once again run a 5K in the Avera Race. There is just something about taking on a challenge and conquering it.

The morning of that race, I remembered asking myself, "What was I thinking?" Oh, the doubts and fears of not being strong enough to complete the entire 5K. Up to this point in my training, the farthest I could run was 2 miles. Somehow, I found some Pink Courage and headed to the starting line.

At the beginning of my breast cancer journey, Avera Race funds enabled me to receive a wig.

I did OK the first half mile or so, then there it was – a hill that looked way bigger than it actually was. Through the cheers and encouragement of those on the sidelines, I made it up that hill. Again, I was reminded of my cancer journey and how many times it was hard and I wanted to quit, but my family and friends encouraged me to keep going.

At mile 2, my legs were screaming at me, "STOP! We’re done!" Seeing my struggles, my husband suggested we slow it down and walk for a bit. Again, I was reminded of the times during treatment when I had to slow down and rest. Although at this point of the 5K I was exhausted, I was reassured. "You made it through cancer treatment, you’ll make it to the end of this 5K."

Throughout my journey, I had a breast cancer navigator that provided support. The Avera navigation program is funded through the Avera Race.

Oh, no, another hill. Yet I’d heard rumors that the finish line was just around the corner. I found myself repeating, "I can do this, I can do this!" The same mantra I spoke every time I showed up for chemotherapy and radiation.

Participation in a cancer support group activity helped boost my spirits. The funds for this activity was provided from the Avera Race.

As I saw the finish line, my feet and legs burned with pain. I was gasping to catch my breath and felt nauseated. Yet the cheering sounded louder. Finally...one step at a time I crossed the line. That moment reminded me that every step was worth this victory!

The Avera Cancer survivorship program helped me transition from cancer patient to cancer THRIVER! The funds for the survivorship program are provided through the Avera Race.

Every year since that 5K, I've either walked or ran in the Avera Race Against Cancer. The Avera Race is so much more than racing against cancer. It’s about hope and encouragement. It’s about support and love. It’s a reminder that none of us are walking this road alone. It’s about strength and pink courage ... one step at a time.

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