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Monday, November 2, 2015

Running the (half) St. Jude Marathon: For Noah

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thumbsupWhy do I run? I’ve asked myself that question a lot over the past few weeks as I’ve pounded out mile after mile on the pavement, preparing for what I first planned to be six miles in the St. Jude Marathon relay on Dec. 5. Now, however, I’ve decided to go even farther – 13.1 miles in the half-marathon. I’ve never done anything even close to that before. So why am I?

The most obvious answer to that question is this: I run for my son Noah.

I run for the silly little boy with such a happy, joyful outlook on life who has endured more pain than any 6-year-old should have to. Who has suffered through dozens of needle jabs into his chest. Who has accepted corrosive toxins into his body to kill an even greater poison. Who has taken hundreds of pills. Who has spent countless hours in a hospital when he would rather be somewhere else. Who sometimes has to wear an uncomfortable mask that is hot and annoying when he goes out in public. Who occasionally misses out on fun things with friends because it’s just not worth the risk of him getting sick. Who often can’t find anything to eat that sounds even remotely appetizing. Who spent eight weeks away from home when he was first diagnosed. Who endures pain in his legs and back because of the chemo coursing through his little body.

Through it all, Noah has not lost his joy, his smile, or his silliness. He has, with grace that makes me marvel, accepted his lot without complaint or bitterness. Most of the time, you’d never know that any of the above is true of him. Noah is all boy, and he loves life. He loves Star Wars and Minecraft. He loves baseball and puppy dogs. He loves Legos and Nerf guns. He loves Monopoly and Pick-Up Sticks. He loves farting and burping.

And he loves his mommy and daddy. A few weeks ago, he went through his piggy bank and brought some money to Sarah and me – just because he loves us. A handful of change for me, and a handful of change for Sarah. As I counted the quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies, I was amazed at the result — $1.27 exactly for each of us. That wasn’t an accident. Noah had counted it out and made sure to give each of us the same amount of money.

Over the past 22 months, ever since Noah’s leukemia diagnosis in January 2014, I have, on many occasions, given thought to things I should write about our journey, about him, about those who have been such tremendous blessings to us, about our frustrations, about our triumphs. And I have written a little. Not much. I’ve often wondered why I haven’t written more. Why haven’t I felt compelled to take to the keyboard and share with others about this experience? Why haven’t I been driven to document this path for posterity?

The simplest answer I can give is that it’s difficult for me to go there. Writing about Noah’s battle with leukemia takes me back to the early days of this journey when I lay awake at night wondering if my son would die. Writing brings back memories that are painful and hard to deal with. Even now, tears fill my eyes as I struggle to find the words. Much of the time, it’s far easier to focus on the present and the future than it is to relive the past.

But as painful as it is, I don’t want to forget. The path that we’ve walked over the past couple of years has been the most difficult challenge I’ve ever faced. Through it, though, I’ve seen the Lord pour out blessing after blessing upon us. I hope, in the days ahead, to write about some of those blessings. They are, after all, memorial stones in the river of my life. What do these stones mean? I want to give an answer, however incomplete it may be, to that question.

One of those blessings, I can say with absolute certainty, is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Since Danny Thomas founded the hospital in 1962, St. Jude has been on the forefront of cancer treatment and research for children. Thanks to St. Jude, the leukemia that once would have ended Noah’s life has been largely neutralized. The cure rate for Noah’s leukemia is now about 95 percent.

Sadly, not everyone’s story ends as happily as we expect Noah’s to. We’ve encountered children at St. Jude who have lost their battle with cancer. That’s why the ongoing work of the hospital is so important – to save the lives of precious children who one day might be spared.

Thanks to generous and gracious supporters, St. Jude operates without ever charging patients a dime. Dealing with childhood cancer has been challenging enough. I can’t imagine what it would be like with the addition of hefty medical bills. Because of St. Jude, that’s not something we’ll ever have to worry about.

That’s why events like the St. Jude Marathon are so important. They enable the hospital to raise the money needed not just to treat kids and cure cancer, but to do it without families ever having to pay. Won’t you join me in supporting this noble cause? Every donation, no matter how small, helps. Because of St. Jude, my son Noah is not just alive, but is full of life – with the hope of a lifetime of health ahead of him.

Why do I run? I run for Noah and for so many kids like him. I run for those who cannot, and for those who never will. And I run for those who, by the grace of God and the work of St. Jude, will one day run again.

Categories : Family, Leukemia, Noah

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