Hey, this is Robert.
You may have been following this journey that Shari and I have been on since last November; the one she's been referring to as a marathon in her CaringBridge journal. If you are new to this story, Shari was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer with metastasis to her spine, resulting in fractures of her cervical and thoracic vertebrae. After spending a month in the hospital, she has faced the challenges she’s been given with courage, positivity, and grace. She’s undergone extensive medical tests and procedures, including radiation, spinal surgery, and chemotherapy, to name a few. She’s had several visits to the ER. She’s made it through a pulmonary embolism and COVID. After a month in a hospital bed, she had to learn to walk again. The excruciating pain she suffered after surgery was at a 10 on the pain scale for months. As a result, she was on numerous medications to try to help with the pain. Shari fought through it and the brain fog. She was in a neck brace for six months and was unable to look down or side to side. She’s lost major function in her arms and hands.
Last November, on the oncology floor at Mission Hospital, Shari was in critical condition. Her decline was fast and sudden. I was terrified I was going to lose her. I genuinely believe her desire to live and the love and support of family and friends pulled her through this critical time. She engaged wholeheartedly with every staff member of the hospital, whether it be a doctor or a staff member from housekeeping. She asked about their lives and cultivated relationships. Motivated by her desire to live, Shari choreographed her own optimal conditions for healing. The bed was turned to face the window away from the television, which was never turned on. Every day she looked out upon the mountains. Every night she watched the stars. Love and support were on the walls in the form of cards, lights, drawings, photographs, and banners. Prayer blankets and stuffed animals colored her bed. That sterile hospital room K906 was transformed into a place of love, light and hope. One afternoon, a doctor came into the room after an incredibly trying and busy hospital day of pain and tests, complete with numerous hospital staff visits. He apologized for coming into her room yet again with more information. Shari quickly replied, “No. It’s okay. Every time you come in to talk to me, I look at it as an opportunity for something good to happen.”
Shari has been fierce in her courage and fierce with her vulnerability. People keep saying she is on a marathon, but her marathon is unlike the one I will soon run. For Shari, there is no clear finish line. As her oncologist explains it, it’s chemo-infusion treatment until she decides to stop, at which time she goes into hospice care. But Shari is her own statistic. And she wants to live. She wants to live! And more than live, she wants to thrive and to find her new or altered purpose within this new reality she faces.
So, I am running my marathon on November 12th in Charlotte. The date chosen for this run was intentional. Shari was diagnosed on November 5th, 2022. Our wedding anniversary is November 11th. As I write this, I have been training for eleven weeks. The marathon is just over a month away. Two months ago, while running around the lake, I thought about why I had chosen to register for this marathon as a non-runner. I slowed down into a walk, and on my phone notes app wrote: Why? Here is the unedited list:
To do it
Prove something to myself
The mystery it will bring
Life and death—prove I’m alive
There’s always hope
Consistency within a reality of inconsistency
Because I’m sad
Let’s be clear, what I am experiencing during this training process does not compare or come close to what Shari is going through. But it has brought me closer to understanding myself and my capacities. I have suffered minor injuries. I have struggled to keep balance and energy in my day-to-day life. Training for a marathon is not unlike having a part-time job. I have cried on runs. I have had moments of pure exhaustion. And I have experienced moments of beauty. There are days (every day) that I have a slow pace but, I persist. As I write this, I will be running 18 miles in a few days. And I am going to succeed. I would have never thought this possible a couple of months ago. And those items on the list… well, they have all shown up in some form. On my runs, I often imagine seeing Shari at the finish line.
When I drop into this daydream, I start to lose my shit…running and crying. Shari and I have had a most incredible year, complete with pain, fear, sadness, gratitude, love, and joy. On November 5th of last year, at around 1:30 pm, Shari’s primary doctor called. She said, “hello,” and then asked two questions: “Are you sitting down? Is someone with you?” At that precise moment, I realized our lives would never be the same. I was with Shari when she got the call, and I have been by her side since. Our love has grown deeper and deeper.
This marathon is my way of running side by side with her journey. I know she will be with me on mine. We are in this together. We know that we are also supported, in so many ways, by the great love and generosity of our family and friends. All of you. We are so grateful.
This marathon is also an opportunity to raise funds. Shari and I humbly ask for your help. Our income is limited, and the medical bills continue to pile up. Shari continues to receive important and essential therapies and care that are not covered by insurance. I will also be running to raise funds for the LUNGevity Foundation, which supports lung cancer patients through a variety of educational programs and direct care. 10% of your donations will go to support the important work they are doing. Beyond any help with this fundraiser, we ask that you continue to keep us in your prayers; for Shari’s healing, for my marathon, and for strength, resiliency, ease, and…yes, miracles!