GE DIGITAL CAMERAWell this is as official as it can get, this afternoon I and the 11 year old put our registration forms in the mailbox for the Patrick Downey 5K race, fighting esophageal cancer. Well the 11 year old was in the back seat of the car, so he didn’t actually have his hand on the envelope, but he is, at this point, no less excited about this venture. There was a Woo HOO from the back seat as the little white envelope slid down that slippery slope of the big blue metal box.

I think probably that my husband thinks this is the craziest thing I have ever done. I, on the one hand am not entirely convinced there is any craziness involved in this. On the other hand how many people decide to travel 1033 miles to run a 5K race, not a marathon (26.2 miles) but a 5K (3.1 miles), a race that will be over with, for me the turtle in about 45 minutes? Traveling 15 plus hours in a car with an 11 year old and my mother in law to run a race of 45 minutes. My son and I won’t run together. He’ll be ahead of me the entire distance and my mother in law isn’t running at all. She’ll be at the start to watch us take off and at the end to see us cross the finish line.

This whole trip is based on these 45 minutes. Oh we aren’t just going to drive straight there, run, then drive back; now that would be crazy. We are making a vacation out of it. We’ll go by way of Niagara Falls, because I’ve never seen it, we’ll walk the streets of Boston’s Freedom trail, because I love history and I’ve never seen these sights and we’ll even take in a whale watching expedition, even though I am deathly afraid of drowning, because when else will I or my son have this opportunity again and with someone we love, a time for bonding between a grandson and grandmother who live too far apart for bonding. But this trip’s biggest highlight IS the Patrick Downey 5K race to fight esophageal cancer, the other stuff is basically fluff. We haven’t taken a proper vacation since the 11 year old was a 1 year old.

No this vacation is about Patrick and bringing awareness to a fight. Patrick was a man, whom I never had the opportunity to meet, but I know he died too young. Patrick has a sister who loved him and puts this race on in his memory and to raise awareness for esophageal cancer. I don’t know her either.

I have wanted to do this little town race from the very first time I read about it. I saw a little blip about it and when things touch my heart I have to dig a little deeper. I found Patrick’s Sister, Shannon’s race website and read about Patrick, the race and why Shannon does this. I loved that Patrick had his own sense of style, he loved flannel and Chuck Taylors. Anyone who knows me, knows I have my own sense of style too and most days I’m not afraid to wear what I want to wear, and while I did not have esophageal cancer I did have tonsil cancer, stage IV Tonsil cancer, can’t get too much closer to the esophagus than that and due to my radiation treatments I have had issues with the shrinking of my esophagus. I could, can and do relate.

I have been, since my diagnosis a volunteer with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. I am proud of my work with that organization, but Patrick’s race for me, hits close to my reality. I only started running after my diagnosis, I started running BECAUSE I had cancer. It was the only way I knew how to take charge of my own body and fight my own fight. I didn’t start running to win races; I did it to cross the finish line. I did it to say I could do it. I’ll never be fast, I’ll never be a contender, but I will always cross that finish line, because every time I cross it, it’s a punch in the gut to cancer. It may very well take me out someday, but not today and not tomorrow. That is why my heart is set and has been set for almost 3 years now to run the streets of Peabody, Massachusetts. It’s me joining Shannon and all of those local runners giving awareness to a horrible disease that takes the life of too many brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and children. May 11th, Mother’s Day, I run because I am here, almost 10 years after diagnosis, healthy and alive. I am a mother to three children who almost lost me. I run with a purpose. For this life I have, that Patrick doesn’t have. I run my slow turtle run to make YOU aware, to make YOUR heart ache as mine does, for all the Patrick’s WE have all lost in OUR lives.

On the Patrick Downey 5K webpage, Patrick’s sister Shannon states: “All proceeds from the Patrick Downey 5K will go to the Esophageal Cancer Awareness Association (ECAA). Their mission is to provide education, awareness and support to patients dealing with EC as well as their families, who are always integral in the fight against cancer.
ECAA can be reached at

I know May 11th may seem like a long way off to you, but for me it’s right around the corner of what has been a long journey. Please think of Patrick and Shannon, all of the runners, and the volunteers on May 11th. I pray you will think of my mother in law, my 11 year old and me as we make this journey together to fight cancer and have some fun along the way. I pray that lives will be changed because Shannon puts this race on every year to raise money for others fighting this battle.


About jlturtlerunner

12 plus Years Surviving Stage IV Oral Cancer. I have become a "Turtle" runner since that diagnosis, as a way of saying, "Take That Sucker!" After 12 years of being a Turtle Runner, I'm adding a new title, Turtle Rucker!

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