Why I Chose Sloan-Kettering

Since I signed up to run The Sahara Race about 6 weeks ago, a lot of people have asked me a common question besides “Are you crazy?”  The question is “Why Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer  Center?” I hope to answer that question with the story below:

170.  I still remember that number almost 10 years later.  That is the number of pills my mother used to take each day while battling breast cancer.  Along with her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she took every known vitamin and supplement on the market, and ate frozen liver as her “dessert” each night because of the health benefits it provided.  While I remember so much about her meticulous program and what she put into her body, what sticks with me the most was her passion and zeal for life, her deep commitment to her family, and her relentless spirit and determination that would never let her give in as she fought with all of her might through her last days.  While her passing was sad, it taught me so many life lessons that have changed my way of thinking and made me a better person.  Her story inspired me to take more risks, push my limits both mentally and physically, and to find a positive way to help others.  When I signed up to run the 155 mile “Racing the Planet Sahara Race”, I knew it would be a great challenge for me personally.  Besides the fact that I have only been running competitively for 3 years, I have never run more than 26 miles at once.  The schedule of this race is 25 miles per day for 4 days straight and 55 miles on Day 5.  I still have no idea how to train for 55 miles and at this point, I am just hoping that my body somehow keeps going.  But I also felt that the uniqueness of the race and the size of the challenge would be a great way for me to raise awareness and money for a great cause.  The FAB For Life Foundation (www.fabforlife.org) has been a great way for my family to keep my mom’s memory alive by supporting the special education students she strove to help her whole life.  Over the past four years, with the amazing support of family and friends, we have awarded over 10 scholarships to students at 4 high schools in Staten Island, NY.  While this would have been a great organization to raise money for, I wanted a cause that a large number of people could relate to, and unfortunately, that cause is cancer research.

Being an avid runner over the past 3 years in New York, I would always see the orange Fred’s Team shirts on runners in Central Park and during the NYC Marathon, and was curious as to what the group was about.  I later learned that Fred’s Team was the fundraising arm of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), named after Fred Lebow, the creator of the NYC Marathon.  I was accepted into the NYC Marathon in 2009 and while training, read the book “A Race Like No Other” by Liz Robbins (http://www.amazon.com/Race-Like-No-Other-Through/dp/0061373133) .  The book tells the story of a young man named Harrie Bakst who runs the race with his brother to raise money for Fred’s Team five months after overcoming salivary cancer with the help of MSKCC.  I realized that cancer was not something that just people my mom’s age dealt with, but was a major problem amongst my peers as well. After contacting Harrie and learning about all of the great things he is doing with his life, it struck me that without the help of MSKCC, this young man’s life could have been cut short without him fulfilling his potential.  Harrie’s story is just one of so many that MSKCC has made possible through their award-winning research and superb care.  After learning more about MSKCC’s sterling reputation and the impact that fundraising dollars make through Fred’s Team, choosing this organization to work with was a no brainer. 

I know that running 155 miles across the hottest desert in the world with 20 pounds of equipment on my back will probably be the hardest mental and physical challenge that I have taken on in my life thus far, but it will be nothing compared to the challenge that so many take on day after day in their fight against cancer.  I feel blessed to be in the position to give back in a positive way and the thoughts of my mom and so many others who show amazing courage in their lives will keep me pushing one foot in front of the other across the sands of the desert floor. 


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