Lenice crossing the NYC Marathon finish line
After surviving three strokes, running to raise money for those who can't has become my mission—to run the NYC Marathon in an effort to raise money and awareness that strokes do happen and life can be darn good afterward!
I am a stroke survivor, not a runner. Yet, running is what I do.
This November, I will join 45,000 others in running 26.2 miles for the 42nd New York City Marathon. I will be running on the National Stroke Association's Marathon team, and our goal is to raise more than $100,000 to support stroke research.
This will be the third time I've run for the team, and my vow is to run every year that I am able, on behalf of the thousands of stroke victims who are not.
My stroke has caused some weakness, atrophy and slowness in my left leg. Although I do not walk with a limp, it does affect my balance. I also have migraines that mimic strokes, and these also affect my left leg, sometimes leaving it with weakness.
Because of those effects, I had all but given up on exercise. One summer, while on vacation in Florida, I surprised myself with the desire to take a morning jog on the beach. It felt great. So I did it again the next morning, and the next.
After three days of "jogging", I was so slow that my mother could have walked next to me with no difficulty keeping up! I was feeling pretty good about myself.
That afternoon, while relaxing by the pool, I noticed a man walking with a cane, a brace on one foot and a useless arm being helped to the side of the pool. Sensing that he had had a stroke, I approached him, asking what had happened. He responded as I expected, saying he had had a stroke. I told I him I, too, had suffered a stroke. It seemed that his stroke must have been very recent because of his obvious physical difficulties. I hoped that he might find some comfort and hope in our conversation. When he told me that his stroke was seven years in the past, I was dumbfounded. It was so overwhelming to think about all this man had suffered and how much his life had changed. He looked me in the eyes with envy and said, "you don't know how lucky you are." I almost cried.
He was right. I am lucky. And I not only took that for granted, but also spent way too much time feeling sorry for myself. That very evening, I received an invitation by e-mail from National Stroke Association to join its first marathon team to raise money for stroke research. I knew I had to do it. I knew that this was a mission that God had given me - to raise money and awareness for others who were not so lucky. I am convinced that God placed that man in my path—I never got his name, but he changed my life.
I spent the next three months training with the goal of simply finishing. And finish I did - and RAN the whole way!!! What did I learn from running this race? I ran with a war vet who had lost both legs, an 84-year-old marathon veteran of 26 races, a mother who had lost three children to cancer, survivors of breast cancer, pacemaker recipients and stroke survivors. I ran with 43,000 ordinary people who were all committed to doing this extraordinary thing.
I learned that pain is the price for all that is worth having in life. God made life that way for a reason. The joy of reaching the finish line is made sweeter and more meaningful by the pain that we endured to get there.
Life, love and marathons... not pain-free, but worth every minute of suffering!
We are all capable of doing extraordinary things—so much more than we give ourselves credit for. Set your mind to what you want to accomplish and don't let negative thoughts stop you. There is nothing that we—all ordinary people—can't accomplish if we set our minds to it.
Repeat after me: Today, this will not be a problem! I will not let my stroke define me, but encourage me to go beyond my wildest dreams and live life to its fullest! Not as a stroke victim, but as a stroke SURVIVOR!