Charlotte Marathon and a Letter of Appreciation to Mom

11/15/2017 - 11:48

By Ashley Mahoney
Multimedia Journalist, The Charlotte Post (.com)

(This column was published by of Charlotte, NC, and is reprinted with permission.)

Dear Mom,

It hurt. I knew it would. It doesn’t matter what drives you to run a marathon. Running 26.2 miles will always hurt.

Yet, we must go further back.

I remember calling you on a warm February afternoon asking you if you would mind The Post starting a cancer awareness campaign, which would end on Nov. 11 with the Charlotte Marathon. Of course you said yes. Who knew when Racing Against Cancer began in March that you would die in August?

Hopefully the series, like your life, touched countless others. Perhaps it provided information, or dare I hope even inspiration, for another daughter whose mother has been diagnosed. Maybe that daughter doesn’t have a medical degree. Maybe she does, and her understanding of oncology will reshape the way cancer impacts patients and caregivers alike.

Racing Against Cancer raised $3,500 for the American Cancer Society. Amazing people did amazing things. Some knew you personally. Some just knew about you. Cancer has an odd way of uniting strangers.

Do you remember my first marathon on Nov. 14, 2015? They called it Thunder Road then, but now it’s the Charlotte Marathon. Both courses took you up Graham Street on mile 13. Both revealed a finish line just out of reach—at the intersection of Mint Street and Graham. Both took you around BB&T Ballpark on Graham. Dad stood at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard. Of course, I internally pouted thinking you would miss me at the halfway point, but he pointed ahead, and there you stood. You ran with me past the ballpark, and for a woman who didn’t run, that’s saying something. A quick kiss, and another 13 miles later, you saw me complete my first marathon.

Running your first marathon, you don’t know what to expect. Nothing can prepare your body for that much pain. Should you decide to run 26.2 miles – again – you know the kind of pain that’s coming. There is nothing you can do to prevent it. It hurts like hell. Legs, hips, toenails — every fiber of your being screams bloody murder at some point.

Who can fathom the amount of pain cancer put you through? Watching you die, no one should ever experience that. For the sake of saying too much, after I took your ashes to Scotland, things got dark and twisted. Depression took over. Logic took a backseat. Irrational behavior took the wheel. One Monday in October, I didn’t want to see Racing Against Cancer through. I didn’t want to train for this (expletive) race, go to yoga, see anyone, eat anything or even drink coffee. Regardless of how much logic tried to bargain with the intruder residing in my mind, it refused to let go of the past 12 months. It heard Dad’s voice telling me that “according to the paperwork I have in my hand, your mom’s body is filled with cancer.” He said that at 9:12 p.m. on Dec. 22, 2016.

Every moment from your anniversary on Nov. 19 forward remained on repeat. To most of the outside world, everything appeared fine. Inside, I let depression win. Every word I wrote, and honestly believed, the month after you died seemed to have been written by someone else — a wiser, better version of myself. Yet you raised an overachieving child, and left me with an incredible support system to help navigate these seasons of change. Crossing the finish line on Nov. 11 remained the only option — it didn’t matter if it took three hours or six.

I found Dad shortly after crossing the finish line, and cried. I cried for the memories that could have been, for feeling like we didn’t have enough time, and for ever doubting my value. The moment that Dad told me about your diagnosis remains immortalized in my mind, but four words overpower those of Dec. 22. As others flooded the finish behind us, he said “just let it go.” You have a very wise husband, but you know this.

Change, much like running a marathon, hurts like hell. Sometimes you have to let go of things along the way in order to finish the race. While gloves and jackets can easily be discarded along the course, what the mind clings to takes more mental fortitude to set aside.

Change hurts no matter what. You might as well embrace it.


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