In grieving over the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy, I have been thinking about my own connection to the race.
I "ran" the marathon once, thrilled to be there on a bright, festive Patriot’s Day. The word "ran" is in quotes because I ran only four miles, although I did cross the finish line. No, I was not doing a Rosie Ruiz thing, sneaking in partway and pretending to have run the whole race. My friend Diane, who was actually running the marathon, asked me to do what many runners ask their less ambitious runner friends to do: jump in near the end and run with them for support.
Sharing her excitement, I dropped her off in Hopkinton, where the race starts, and then drove into Boston. Diane told me just about where to find her at just about what time, and, sure enough, along she came just when she said she would.
I jumped in, feeling a little conspicuous but game. I wanted to cheer her on, so I said things like, "You're doing great," "You're almost there," etc. I think I was annoying her. "I can't really talk now," she said. I realized she just wanted me to run, so I stopped talking. We crossed the finish line and someone put a Mylar sheath on top of me.
I tried to protest that I wasn't a runner, but the volunteer was on to the next person before I could get the words out. I was thrilled for Diane’s triumph race and got caught up in the joy of the event.
A few years later on another Patriot’s Day, I went to Boston from my home in Western Massachusetts in a vastly different state of mind.
I wasn’t running anywhere this time. It was after my first leukemia relapse and second bone marrow transplant, and I had a high fever. A friend drove me to the clinic at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. My nurse practitioner told me that I needed to be admitted to the hospital.
I had nothing with me, so my valiant chauffeur went to my sister’s house in nearby Newton and picked up a few things to wear – comfortable yoga pants and T-shirts.
They put me in a hospital room where the window faced a brick wall. The darkness fit my mood. My doctor came in and said I hadn't relapsed again, but my bone marrow was almost empty. It was my introduction to "graft failure." The donor cells had moved out. They would have to address the cause of my fever first. Then I would have more chemotherapy and another bone marrow transplant.
Joy and despair on Patriot’s Day.
Of course, I did eventually get better (and got moved into a room with a view) so the darkness turned into light.
My hope is that after this year’s horrible violence, the light will eventually shine through again for those of us who cherish the Boston Marathon.
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