Monday, March 12, 2012

Get Your Rear in Gear!

Last weekend my friend, Teri, and I traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma to participate in the Get Your Rear In Gear 5K with my daughter, Sarah, her soon-to-be brother-in-law, Drew, and three of her friends, Kourtni, Greg, and Molly.

In their own words, Get Your Rear In Gear "are sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers and friends who have been affected by colon cancer and want to do something."
Their mission is to "Empower local communities to promote prevention and early detection of colon cancer and to provide support to those affected." 

Teri and I arrived in Tulsa and immediately went to Runners World to pick up our race packets.  We felt like athletes as we browsed through the store's running gear. In the back of my mind I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Yes, I ran track in 6th grade, but that was a long time ago!

Teri handing out at Runners World

We enjoyed a high-carb dinner at Olive Garden with Sarah and her friends under the guise that our training required such extravagance! Then we spent the evening making t-shirts for our team (by that I mean Sarah spent the evening making t-shirts for our team!).

Sarah's handiwork

The day was predicted to be cold and wet, but Saturday morning arrived beautiful, cool, and clear. We put on our running gear, loaded up the car and headed down to Veterans Park

 Teri and me at Veterans Park

Sporting my "survivor" t-shirt, I stepped up to one of the tables to fill out a form in honor and memory of several of my sweet friends. As I was doing so, the lady at the table said, "Laura Shook! Is that you? I've read your story! I'm so glad you are here!" It was another special moment to remember all those who prayed for me and championed me in the battle. It was the perfect inspiration to start the run! 

I walked in honor and memory of my friends!

Sarah ran in my honor!

The race route was beautiful, taking us over and along the river, winding through a peaceful tree-lined neighborhood and then back to Veteran's Park. Over 500 people participated in the event, from age 7 to 99!  

And we're off!

It was a surreal experience to be run/walking in a 5K almost three years after staring death in the face and being told that I had a 50/50 chance of survival!  I took such pleasure in the sun reflecting off the river, the daffodils pushing up through the dirt, and the wind on my face.  My heart was bursting with gratitude for life, for my family, for my friends, for my doctors, and for my faithful God.

One of the things that touched me the most was all the people I saw who were running in memory of their mothers and fathers - a sweet tribute to their loved ones, and the sad reality of the ugliness of cancer. 

As Teri and I rounded the bend heading into the finish line, Sarah, Drew, Greg, and Kourtni were there cheering. Sarah ran out and joined us to cross the finish line together. Her smiling face beside me was my reward! 

The Finish Line!

I am happy to report that we finished the 5K and we didn't come in last! Although "bringing up the rear" would have been totally appropriate given the nature of the race! 

We celebrated with brunch at Dilly Deli in downtown Tulsa. What an amazing fun day!

To all my Houston friends, Houston will be hosting its first ever Get Your Rear in Gear 5K on November 3, 2012. I hope you will all join me as we continue to fight against colorectal cancer! For more information check out their website: 

Monday, March 5, 2012

In Every Way

Recently Mark and I had dinner with some good friends. As we were sitting around talking after dinner, my friend asked, "Laura, would you say that cancer changed your life?" Mark and I both laughed out loud, looked at each other,  and immediately answered, "Absolutely!" And then she asked, "In what way would you say your life has been changed?" 

The thought of it left me almost speechless. The change has been all encompassing. The only words I could speak were, "In every way" And those words seem so inadequate to describe what has happened. EVERYTHING about me is different. I may look the same on the outside, it may seem that my life has returned to the way things were, but the truth is that everything has changed.  

The way I think, the things I think, the way I feel, the dreams I have, my relationships with family and friends, my relationship with God... there is nothing that has not been profoundly affected in some way. I am a completely different person on the inside.

And I wouldn't change it for the world! 

I am stronger than I have ever been.  I am more confident than I have ever been.  It has caused me to speak my mind even more than I used to. I'm not sure that Mark thinks this is a good thing, but I am very happy to do so!

I am not afraid of anything. I have an unshakeable peace. I know without a doubt that my life and my future are held in the hand of God. There is nothing that can come against me that God and I together can't handle. I know that He will always stand on my behalf. There is tremendous peace in the knowing. 

My priorities have become more focused. I don't waste time or energy on things that don't fit into those priorities. Family matters. My friends matter. God's Kingdom matters. And that's about it!

I am constantly aware that life is fragile and death is certain. That may sound morbid, but honestly, it makes each moment sweeter because I recognize the gift and value of each day I am given. 

So, yes, cancer changed my life. Completely. Thankfully.