The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

Running “Away” from Cancer

by Amy Lippert HoffmannSurvivor, Triple Negative Breast CancerOctober 11, 2023View more posts from Amy Lippert Hoffmann

For years before I had cancer, I was a runner. I started in 2014, just doing 5ks and eventually training for my first 10k. In 2016, I signed up for my first marathon and ran for a charity team. The same year, I got to see firsthand the charity work, and I knew I wanted to keep running marathons and fundraising for my cause.

In 2020 I was pregnant with my twin daughters and could no longer run. I was desperate to run 10 miles again like it was nothing. Two months after my daughters were born, I signed up for my next marathon, anticipating the 12 months of getting back into marathon shape.

One day in April, I was done showering and getting excited about a charity run when I was dancing and happened to feel my lump in my breast. Nearly three weeks later, at about nine months postpartum, I found myself in a position I never would’ve fathomed—a cancer patient. The day before chemo, wrapped up in anxiety, I went out for a run, and I decided then and there I would keep training for a marathon.

I decided to only run twice a week. Monday I had chemo. Either Tuesday mornings if the steroids before chemo wouldn’t let me sleep—I would run at 4 a.m.—or just wait until Wednesday. By Saturday or Sunday, I would head out for my long run. My first 10-mile run while undergoing chemo felt like the biggest accomplishment. I remember the sense of pride I felt when my nurse or oncologist would ask how my week was, and I would proclaim, “Oh no big deal, I ran 15 miles or whatever.”

Training for a marathon made me feel up to the words people threw at me—I was brave because I was running. I was inspiring because I was running. It was no longer just about surviving cancer or wanting to live. I was still out running and I was fundraising like a champ.

In a victory lap, I ran 20 miles in the fastest time for me ever. My oncologist was shocked and told me, “I think you’re actually going to run that marathon!” Unfortunately, it was two days before I started dose-dense AC, and AC had much different plans for me, as I got a pulmonary embolism after my first treatment. I asked the doctor in the ER if there was any way I could run my marathon in two short weeks. Obviously, it was a no.

My biggest goal then became crossing my marathon finish line in 2022. Every run as a survivor felt different. It felt like a victory lap. Survivorship was this weird space, less happy than anticipated, but I was still a runner. There were much more tears and appreciation. When I got to my finish line 12 months late—10 months after hearing the words “You are cancer free”—I sobbed with elation. I did it. I didn’t just survive cancer, but I accepted that I could keep doing hard things and I didn’t give up.

Since then, I have trained for another marathon, finished that one, and am training for my first ultramarathon EVER—as an 18-month cancer survivor. I don’t know what I would have done without running in my life the last two years. It’s meant so much more to me than ever before.

Thank you, running—you helped me not just survive, but thrive. I don’t think I could have gotten through treatment and survivorship without running.

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