Last Sunday Jayee and I took part in the annual Terry Fox Run, a day to raise funds for cancer research, think of loved ones currently living with cancer, and remember those who have succumbed to the disease, including the incredible Canadian for whom the event is named. I had noted the date of this year’s run on my calendar months ago, before I had my surgery, as a target date. The hope was that by September 15th, I would have my ostomy reversed, my pelvic pouch would be up and running, and that I could take part in the Terry Fox Run, although I didn’t plan on actually running. Of course, if you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that the surgery was shit, the recovery has been shit, and my right now my body is pretty much… shit.
When I flipped my calendar to September at the beginning of this month, I looked at “Terry Fox Run” written in the square for Sunday, September 15, and marked a blue X over the words. At the time, I didn’t feel like taking part. Largely because I remembered last year’s run, and the fact that I did indeed run all 10 kilometres. Jayee took the photo above at last year’s run. This time last year, I was beginning to slide into a colitis flare-up, but I managed to run the 10 K course through Etobicoke’s West Deane Park. It felt wonderful to finish the run in my Arsenal shirt and Nike Lunaracers. Reflecting on the 2012 run highlighted just how much my body has deteriorated in the last year. I didn’t want to take part as a skinnier shadow of my former self. But then, as she often does, Jayee stepped in and pulled me out of doldrums. After being a spectator and photographer in 2012, Jayee wanted to take a more active role in this year’s run. So, we agreed to walk. Together.
From the start/finish line in the middle of the park, we walked towards the north end, past the baseball diamonds and a ReMax balloon set up to give people short rides above the fields. We walked along the winding asphalt path until it ended at a water station and a rock with the words “Terry Fox Run Turnaround” inscribed in it. Jayee and I discussed the problem of plastic cups actually being difficult to recycle and whether organizers should encourage people to bring their own reusable water bottles next year. We did an about face and headed back to the middle of the park, passed the start/finish line, and headed for the south end. We had completed about 4 km at that point.
We followed the path that ran alongside a still creek. Other participants waved as they walked past us in the opposite direction. We passed under a bridge and discussed the merits of graffiti, some of which was scrawled on the walls beneath the bridge.
“Some of it can be really aesthetically pleasing, like in a lot of the back alleys on Queen Street,” I said.
“Yeah, but it’s being painted on someone’s property, maybe without their consent. Like, I wouldn’t want someone just painting on the back wall of my business,” Jayee replied.
“That’s fair. I remember in Halifax there was a public wall specifically made for graffiti artists to paint on.”
“See, that’s a good idea. A lot of these people are creative, and they should have some kind of legal outlet for their creativity.”
“But as creative as some of these people are, there are plenty of losers who just like to paint the word penis somewhere and be like, oh look what I did!”
We reached the south end of the park, another water station, and another stone marker instructing us to turn around. We started back towards the middle of the park. As we walked down a slope, a fit young woman who clearly detested sports bras ran up the hill.
“Stop checking out her breasts,” Jayee said.
“I wasn’t… I… it’s just that…they were… sorry.”
The path wound back towards the start/finish line. We made it 7 km, then 8, then we took a little break and Jayee used the bathroom. My ostomy had been surprisingly cooperative throughout the walk, so I didn’t need the facilities. We kept on walking, past the 9 km mark. As we closed in on the finish line, Jayee asked, “Do you want to run?”
“Yes, but very slowly,” I said.
We jogged the final few metres as lightly as possible, crossed the finish line, and hugged each other. I had to wear an ostomy bag, I had to wear an abscess drainage bag, I had to wear a wound dressing, and I had to walk, but Jayee and I finished the whole damn course.
As selfish as this sounds, ever since I received my ulcerative colitis diagnosis in 2008, the Terry Fox Run has been more about IBD than cancer for me. That’s not to say I don’t think about people affected by cancer. While I was walking, I thought about a friend of mine in Halifax who continues to endure treatment for ovarian cancer. I wish her nothing but the best. But the Terry Fox Run has become an annual opportunity to prove to myself that despite my disease I can still finish a 10 K, just as I did before my diagnosis. I’ve had to miss a couple of Terry Fox Runs because of UC flare-ups, and I almost missed this year’s event because of my surgical complications. I’m glad Jayee convinced me to take part. I really hope that we can run next year. Together.