I raised over $7500 for MS
A month ago I ran the 119th Boston Marathon with Marathon Strides Against MS Boston Marathon Team. Not only was I honored to make my dream come true along side 53 team members who raised money for the same cause, but I was asked to be the only team member to speak at our pre race pasta dinner. Living in Denver, CO, my only connection with everyone until this point was our Team Facebook Group. Being able to introduce myself while sharing my passion and purpose for the pursuit of these particular 26.2…. with everyone all at once, was the icing on the cake.
SO…I thought to share my speech with all of you, too. Here goes:
“I can’t believe this weekend is finally here. If you’re anything like me, you booked your flight in December and told the Customer Service lady that it was taking you to run the Boston Marathon. I’ve pretty much told anyone that would listen to me since the day I found I was on the team. You see, I have Boston Roots. I was born in Framingham 37 years ago. My Dad raised me to be a die-hard Pats & Red Sox Fan. My Mom raised me to be a die-hard Lobster & Clam Chowda fan. My Grandma didn’t call me Carlyn, she called me CAH-LYN. Boston is in my Blood and I love being in this city! This is one of the reasons I stalked David for weeks before he officially told me I was accepted to run with all of you. Being here, and especially being asked to speak tonight, truly is a dream come true. I’m honored to share my story of WHY this particular marathon, for this particular cause was a must on my To Do list in life.
Can anyone remember when running 6 miles scared the hell out of you? I can. It was my training run for my first half marathon, 5 years ago. Standing before you now, I can honestly say that I don’t just like to run, I love it. However, running the Boston Marathon never crossed my mind until the tragic events of April 15, 2013. A voice from within spoke to me and I knew I had to run–for Boston. I also knew there was no way on earth I could qualify. It just so happens that I met Phil Yastrow, a former runner with this team, who told me he got in by running for MS. What? You mean I can fundraise for my cause AND run the Boston Marathon? This had my name written all over it.
The decisions I’ve made over the years led me to this moment. I believe every day we have the choice to look at life from a positive or negative perspective. We have the power to allow tragedy to create purpose and take action rather than waiting for life to happen. I know I am here with all of you because I have chosen to walk (or in our case, run) a life paved by optimism and opportunity.
To start, it was October 1997. I couldn’t feel the water hitting my arm in the shower. Then my entire left side fell asleep. Within a day my torso was numb, followed by the loss of vision in my right eye. I was an invincible 19-year old sophomore at Indiana University until I was given my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. MS, what the heck was MS? Thankfully, I was told to look up the National MS Society. I read that MS was different for everyone, that the symptoms varied and there were treatment options. Yes, I was scared. But I was comforted by the love and support from all my friends and family. However, any scared thoughts soon vanished when 2 of my best friends died 10 months apart in separate car accidents. The first was one month after my diagnosis. I share this as part of my story because accepting their deaths was much harder than accepting my MS. Rather than feel that life was unfair, I felt fortunate to be alive. I wanted to experience all that I could for myself and their spirits, too. Shortly after their passing I had my first of many AH HA moments and declared a Mantra I still say today: I will plant my feet all over this planet as long as I can.
Me with my Mom & her Boyfriend after I gave my speech.
After graduation, I moved to Dallas, TX. I was 23 when I happened upon a Lunch & Learn presented to my company by the Director of the local MS 150, now called Bike MS. I walked up to the Director and said, I have MS. It was the first time I’d shared it with anyone that understood what that meant. Though I didn’t own a bike and I was anything but a runner, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and join a local friends & family team. The Society asked if I would appear on the local news to promote the bike ride. My Dad flew out to crew, my friends made signs to cheer me on and I met other people like me. Most people I met with it were much older than me yet often I had an earlier diagnosis! So I made up the joke that I’d had MS longer than I’d been legally able to drink. I’d never been an adult without it. But jokes aside, I liked this new sharing role. I liked fundraising and I liked making a difference. I loved this experience so much I did it again the following year.
Fast Forward to 2004. I followed my dream of living on the beach and moved myself to San Diego, CA. Soon after, I called the Society to get involved. Upon hearing my name, they immediately asked if I was related to the Chapter President, Allan Shaw. I laughed confused because I was not related to THAT Alan Shaw, but I was related to an Alan Shaw, my Dad! Coincidence? I think not. I had an instant family! This family turned out to be incredibly helpful when at age 26, I had my next exacerbation. I woke up and couldn’t get out of bed. My left leg was paralyzed. This would last for a week. I couldn’t drive because I couldn’t feel my clutch, but I was able to take my wiggle of a walk to the gym and use the recumbent bike, lifting my left leg onto the pedal, making sure to stay active with my right. And after a couple weeks my body was back to normal but I was forever changed. This is where I would adopt my next Mantra: Move it or Lose it.
In 2006 I signed, by myself, and walked in my 1st 3 Day, 50 Mile MS Challenge Walk in San Diego. At this point, my Dad had previously walked in 5 Carolina Challenge Walks so he was the inspiration for me. It was my turn to show that someone with MS could walk for others with MS. The following year I convinced another girlfriend my age with MS to join me. My 3rd year she & I formed Team OptiMiStic, with the M and the S capitalized, and recruited 5 others. I gave my first MS speech at that candlelight dinner. The drug company, Acorda, also selected me and my team for a documentary about the challenge walk. Each year I looked forward to seeing my extended MS family while creating awareness and assisting others living with MS. It felt like my purpose. MS was literally paving a path of amazing people and experiences in my life. Upon feeling this silver lining with all of my being, I declared my next Mantra: Set Backs are Stepping Stones in Disguise.
By the time I walked my 4th Challenge walk, I’d become a bit of a runner. Then, one afternoon in late 2009, at the beach, some friends challenged me to join them for a half marathon the beginning of 2010. After a several beers my arm was twisted. Little did I know that would be one of the best, life-changing decisions I’d ever make. By the end of 2010, I’d run 3 half marathons. Yup, I’d been bitten by the Run Bug, hard. And each race I planted my feet somewhere new. Each time a little faster. I had MS but MS did not have me.
Fast Forward to 2011. After being let go from my job in San Diego, I created a 6-week cross country road trip filled with 15 cities, lots of friends and now lots of runs and landed myself on the beach of Wilmington, NC! I also started my blog Strangers To Friends. I couldn’t help but reflect on all the serendipity in the form of friendships, especially with people I met because of my MS. Without fear, I followed my intuition, allowing one closed door to be the opening of another. Within the next year I appeared on The Anderson Cooper Show to speak about my MS, and ran 3 more half marathons, including the NYC Half. The day I ran my 6th, I got the tattoo Love (a heart) Life (it’s actually my Mom’s handwriting) on the back of my neck, base of my brainstem, top of my spinal cord, where I knew my lesion to be. I thanked my body for each step it had allowed me to take and every experience MS had motivated me to accomplish. I still get excited when a runner behind me notices it and asks me about it. I like to think it’s my bumper sticker 😉
This brings me to 2012. I heard one more whisper, to bid farewell to the beach and take on the mountains, which brought me to where I am now, living in Denver, CO. Within 3 months I ran half marathon #8 and signed up for The Portland Marathon. My friends followed along on FB, watched how Iâ€™d not allowed the label or disease to hold me back and called me an inspiration. Ha, but after that marathon I swore on everything in me that I would never, ever run another one again. Famous last words, right?
The following year, 2013, was really tough. I broke my 5th metatarsal on my right foot. 4 months later I was in a horrible bike accident that launched me face first into the street, shattered my 2 front teeth and caused my back and neck muscles to tighten up so badly that it took another 5 months before I could run. Being forced to be still from freak accidents that had nothing to do with MS was almost more challenging than when it happened because of MS! While healing my foot without surgery, I was forced me to rely on my left leg, the one paralyzed years before, which to me was a silver lining. So, 9 months post foot break, I drove to Moab, UT for my first time and PR’d my 9th Half Marathon. To date, this is one of my proudest moments because I had to mentally and physically over come a lot to make it happen.
And here I am today, in the best shape of my life, ready to make my dream come true and take on 26.2 miles with all of you. My journey with MS seems to run parallel with my journey of running. Think back to the moment you decided to commit to the 2015 Boston Marathon to run with our team. You knew you were giving up sleeping in on Saturdays for long runs, but could any of us have predicted ALL THE SNOW? I salute your commitment because you made my Colorado Winter look like a walk in the park! But just like our commitment to accepting MS and doing something about it, we put one food in front of the other. We can’t predict the storms ahead, but we can choose to power through life, like we power through 18 miles on a 15 degree day. By saying yes to this marathon, I said yes to so much more. I made the choice to take on training for the past 4 months and to raise money for my cause. None of us can control what happens in life, but we can control how we respond to it. And I couldn’t ask for a more epic way to use my MS to motivate me that to run a marathon with all of you. So on behalf of everyone with MS, thank you for your choice to be here, so that we can run as a team and do all we do to help those with MS.
Flashback 5 years ago:Â I was taking the MS Medication, Tysabri, a monthly IV Infusion.Â The idea of a 10 K scared me. The dream of running the Boston Marathon to support those with MS did not exist.
5 years later: I am MS Medication Free. I’ve officially run 9 Half Marathons & 1 Full Marathon. My dream of running the Boston Marathon to support those with MS is coming true!!!
What I remember: I was 19 years old. My right eye vision was extremely blurry. I couldn’t feel anything on my left leg. I couldn’t open a soda (who am I kidding, it was beer) can with my left hand. I’d never heard of MS. I couldn’t find anyone like me. A nurse came to my house in college & taught me how to give myself a shot into a grapefruit (seriously!) But… I also remember not being scared. I mean it!
I remember being confused. I remember going to the National Multiple Sclerosis website (because in 1997, there wasn’t another option, at best, a yahoo chat group!). I remember reading that this wasn’t a death sentence. I remember the unconditional support from family & friends. I remember knowing there was only a chance I might endure a lifetime of complications. I remember choosing to see the glass half full. The 50% chance I would always be able to walk was my only focus. I remember telling myself I would plant my feet all over our planet as long as I possiblly could (a mantra I still carry with me to this day)
Fast Forward 17 years later:
After making the choice to stop taking my MS Medicaion in 2010, I made the choice to join a half marathon training group. It seemed like a good idea to me… and as they say, the rest is history.Â I love to run, walk, hike, practice yoga, swim, dance, bike, climb, jump… anything that keeps me moving, for I am grateful every single time I can. And, what better way to experience life besides hands on… or rather, feet on? (ok, bad attempt to be funny) 🙂
Why I chose to run the BOSTON MARATHON:
1) To me, this race is IT! The BIG TIME! The first woman to EVER run a marathon ran Boston in 1967. Plus, I was born in Boston & love my Boston roots. (Shout out to clam chowder, the Red Sox & Cape Cod!)
2) Knowing this race annually raises $10 Million for charities, the mil-second those bombs went off, I knew I had to run, I just wasn’t sure how I would get in.
3) Raising money for MS makes me happy. I don’t run/walk/hike to show that I have MS and I can do it. Well, maybe to a degree because it might give someone hope. But truthfully, I love being connected to my cause. The people I meet. Helping others. I don’t know how not to support.
4) What touches me the most and why I will always continue to raise money for MS in the form of movement: I RUN FOR THOSE THAT CAN’T. Once upon a time, I was told there was a chance I might not run or walk in my future. That future is my NOW. Not a day goes by I don’t consider myself fortunate. My story is my own. People with MS are like snowflakes, all unique in every way. What works for me might not work for another and what works for another could do harm for me. It’s a tricky disease. But I have lived the most incredible life along side it. I am proud to represent a group of people that all share the same goal. We all want to stop MS. We want to assist those living with it to live as best they can.
CLICK HERE TO DONATE to the National MS Society & My Run
I’m HONORED to be selected to join 45 other inspirational runners to participate in the 2015 Boston Marathon on Team Marathon Strides Against MS & run 26.2 (very hard) miles of passion. I invited all of you (to come to Boston) and cheer on all the runners & share in the amazing energy I can’t wait to experience for myself!
I’ll do my part to make a difference in the lives of those living with MS…. and by supporting me, you will make your mark in this pursuit, too.
From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.
****My GoFUNDMe Campaign**** Additionally, I’m raising money towards the cost of this trip.Â Please click here to help towards my out of pocket expenses.
To ask or not to ask? To assume or not to assume?
The other day I had this crazy AH HA moment. I was at a music festival in downtown Denver, CO, flowing through the crowd of colorful people when all of a suddenâ€¦ I bumped into a girl friend I didn’t know would be there that I hadnâ€™t seen in over a year! We both smiled with excitement and totally hugged it out.Â Stepping back, I admired how great she looked and then asked the standard question that two friends ask that havenâ€™t hung out in ages:
“How have you been?”
Only in that moment… without her saying a word, a flash flood of facts began to circle my mind.
Not only was I aware of her move 8 months ago , when she followed her heart across the country to be with her love, but I also felt a tad sad for her with the news that the relationship ended, which is why she was back in town . I was in the know about the super fun week-long cruise she went on with a bunch of her closest friends and the concert she recently rocked out at with her local besties. I knew she became a first time home owner last month.Â I could even tell her where she ate donuts last week.
How did I know this? Am I psychic?
No. We are friends on Facebook.
And then I began to go deeper. I wondered what she thought when she saw me? Thinking back to what I had given myself the green light to share over the past 12 months. However, only I, as well as the people involved with me on a more personal level, shared my secret in that I did not update my status with every major life event I’d overcome in the past 12 months. Perhaps people thought I did? But really, who shares everything. I only chose to share, based on my personal standards, what I believed was appropriate. SO, who was I to assume I knew what was going on in her life? Most likely, she only posted what personal information she also felt needed no filter.
Reality was, our conversation kick started with an outline of our lives, bullet points of socially shared information.
How many times have you crossed paths with an old co worker or classmate and didnâ€™t ask as many probing questions about their lives because you assumed the answers due to their status updates?Â Â Or you casually ran into an old friend but tip toed around the big, pink elephant in the room, the life-changing event they posted yet you didn’t know how to bring it up without being inappropriate. Or, maybe you are one of those Facebook Friends that rarely tags a picture of family or checks into a restaurant but instead you scroll the feed keeping up to date on what’s going on with your circle of cyberspace buddies. Now what, do you tell them you visit (face stalked) their page even though your page has the same Profile Picture from last Fall, meaning the face to face friend is oblivious to your own life. These scenarios are new realities we deal with as a result of the influence of Social Media. The art of the conversation has a new normal.
About an hour after my friend and I initially started chatting in the beer line, I decided to share with her all these questions that filled my mind as we walked towards the stage to get our groove on. Did it feel a bit awkward? Yes. BUT, I opened our conversation to discuss all the “status update” details we’d skipped over, lifting the veil of assumption. It also pushed the big, pink elephant out of the way, giving us more room to dance in the sunshine and sing to the live tunes that brought us together in the first place.
So I’m curious, do you allow what you read about your friends to be the backbone of conversation? Do you feel a sense of responsibility to address information you know about someone when you see them? Does it embarrass you to acknowledge all that you know of them from their Facebook feed even though they shared knowing all had the ability to read?
Please scroll down to comment below, I’d love to start a Social Media Conversation 🙂
“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
This time last week I was employed as a Travel Nurse Recruiter. Every Monday I put on my business casual attire, prepped for my commute and committed 50 hours a week to my cubicle. I was unhappy in this role and had begun to look for new opportunities. This time last week, I also sat with my 16-year-old, MS diagnosis, anxiously preparing for my first MRI appointment in over 4 years. I had the conversation with myself that if the results came back positive, I’d use the knowledge as a stepping stone, as a huge thank-you to my mind & body for collaborating over the years to grant me the gift of health.
Fast forward, one week later. It’s Monday and I’m sitting in a cute coffee shop, walking distance from my condo.Â Wearing a bright colored sundress and comfy flip flops. I’m writing this blog post on my own time… because I was laid off from my job on Thursday, out of nowhere. One week later, I know the results of my MRI. Learning that my brain is as healthy today as it was 4 years ago–that no new lesions formed in the years I chose to live medication-free– gives me confidence in the decisions I’ve made until now, in regards to my MS Diagnosis.
In the matter of one week, my entire life changed. My daydreams came true.
According to Wikipedia, “Daydreaming is a short-term detachment from one’s immediate surroundings, during which a person’s contact with reality is blurred and partially substituted by a visionaryÂ fantasy, especially one of happy, pleasant thoughts, hopes or ambitions, imagined as coming to pass, and experienced while awake.”Â Â To this I say…sounds freaking awesome! Those that know me, know I am a dreamer, whether it be about my job or my health, the place I call home or person I need to show up in my life. However, in the past month, I began to really pay attention to my thoughts.Â IÂ visualized my daydreams coming to life. I saw myself in a place of comfort, I sat with the feeling of freedom. I talked in the now of having good health. And I fully believe, that as a result, my thoughts became my new reality.
Positive daydreaming is healthy.Â It relieves stress, inspires creativity, cleanses your spirit and gives you a vision of what could be. Pay attention to your visions and thoughts– they are POWERFUL!Â Just like focusing on the negative can create an unwanted outcome, focusing on what you want is a tool used to create what you hope to happen, bringing positive events to your life. If we aren’t dreaming, we are not setting new goals. Without new goals we feel stuck and when we feel stuck, that’s when we start to worry and be afraid.Â There is a difference between ‘dreaming’ and ‘doing’, but all goals start with a vision.
I was ready to be let go from my job…but the one person I never told that to is my boss, who made the unexpected decision. The images from my MRI provided necessary evidence to give me and my loved ones peace of mind in regards to my health. I can’t show you the feelings I visualized and allowed myself to feel, believing I would be handed positive results.Â What I can say with confidence is that my heart and my head collaborated. I knew that I really wanted my dreams to come true.
My question to you today is, what do you want to happen in your life? What are your Day Dreams? 🙂