On Sunday March 14, 2011, I completed a 5k race called Mary’s Walk. This race was held to raise money for the Maine Cancer Foundation and has a long history in the community where I live. It honours Mary Kerry Libby who lost her battle to cancer March 7, 1997 at 44 years of age.

This was the first year I have participated in this race. Since I’ve been dealing with my own health battle with Lyme, it’s been hard for me to participate in all the races for all the causes I’d love to support. But this cause is one that is close to my heart.

When I first became ill with Lyme Disease in August 2007, my sister-in-law was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. She had to have major surgery in November of that year, and ever since, has undergone one form of chemo after another, and has had numerous hospitalizations. Her health has remained precarious; she has never once been in the all clear since the day her cancer was discovered. If you were to meet her today, yes, her appearance would suggest something is not quite right; her hair is very short to her head, she is gaunt and quite emaciated, and yet she has a smile that is as broad and as bright as the Cheshire Cat. Throughout her many, many treatments she has remained optimistic, upbeat, positive and strong. She makes light of the numerous side effects she has suffered as a result of 4 years of constant chemo treatment with no remission in sight.

Last Christmas we learned that her cancer had spread to her intestines and things weren’t looking good. We didn’t expect her to make it into the New Year.But her indomitable spirit has kept her positive and has kept her fighting.

The day before Mary’s Walk she was readmitted back to hospital with pain from the blockage in her intestines, unable to keep food down, to keep sustenance in her frail body. The moment we’d been waiting for happened; the doctors asked if she wanted to continue chemo treatment or not. True to her courageous and tenacious self, she has opted to continue to fight on. I know she will continue her battle in the same way she started it, with dignity and an inner strength that is both humbling and inspiring.

Then there is my dear sister. Three weeks before the NYC Marathon, an event she was planning to cheer me on at, she was diagnosed with Lymphoma. It came from out of the blue as quite a lot of cancers do. Her chemo started the week after the marathon, and she was right by my side, cheering me on in NYC (I saw her and my other sister at mile 8 on route!). However, it later transpired that her doctor suspected she may have leukemia and she spent Valentines Day of this year at the Dana Faber Center in Boston.

Like anyone who has undergone chemo knows, the impact on your life can be sudden and dramatic and most of all, very unpleasant. My sister, though worried about the possibility of leukemia, has been an amazing pillar of strength. She has openly shared all of her treatments with family and friends, enlightening us and engaging us along the way. She has maintained one of the most positive attitudes I have ever encountered, and still she has maintained her job as an occupational therapist, because she believes vehemently in helping others.

A friend recently asked me why it was that all the really nice people seem to get seriously ill, and I replied that I thought it was because they are meant to teach us how to deal with adversary with dignity, courage, strength and perseverance. This is exactly what my sister-in-law and sister embody and I have learned a great many things about coping with chronic illness from them.

It was an honour to run for them this past Sunday because every time I run, I realize how lucky I am to be able to do so. Whether it’s Lyme Disease or cancer, Chiari or other debilitating disease, I’m only too happy to do my bit to raise funds and awareness by running, and so I say, “This run is for hire.”

If you have local event you’d like me to run in, please let me know by dropping me an email at angela@angelacoulombe.com

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