With every storm, there is sunshine at the end……

With every storm, there is sunshine at the end…………

Although our week started out with two challenging days, we made it through and finished today in beautiful sunny conditions. With every storm, there is sunshine at the end. Today was that day.

Outside of running, we had two very neat visits. On Wednesday we finished our day with a tour of the Centre of Excellence for Canadian Forces Parachuting Program at CFB Trenton. Ben Lee hosted us and gave us a look inside the training facilities that prepare our troops for deployment (either for war or aid around the world). It was an experience that I will never forget and one that reminded me of how proud I am to be a Canadian.

Our second visit was at a High School in Belleville. We had a great day promoting both the run and our Programs in the School of Hospitality, Recreation, and Tourism. Beyond running, these are the experiences that we will always remember.

I have always called running my counselor. I think a lot on my runs. I often get lost in my music and day dream about family, life, and even planning another run once this one is finished. This week I thought a lot about my dad. My mom is the inspiration behind Sophie’s Run, but I cannot forget about my dad. Without him, I would not be where I am today. I am lucky to have two parents who have always encouraged my brother and I to reach for the stars and to go after the things in life that make us happy. They truly taught us that with hard work anything is possible. My parents instilled a work ethic that made me appreciate everything they provided for our family.

I grew up in a restaurant in Milton, ON. It was called Papa Nick’s (after my grandfather, Nick Chuchmach). At a very young age, my brother and I started working in the restaurant every Saturday morning. We made $20 every shift, often working between 4-5 hours. My dad would work the busy breakfast with us, while my mom made weekly visits about 2 hours into our shifts. She had very strict rules. We were not allowed to speak to her while she sat and ate her breakfast and watched us work. My brother and I had to work hard until our shift was over. She watched us work and made sure we didn’t sit down or hide in the bathroom to pass time. My parents were both hard workers and I am glad they instilled a strong work ethic in me.

Being the only daughter and granddaughter on my dad’s side, I must say that I might have been a little spoiled (maybe a lot if you asked my brother). My dad was the parent who always coached our sports teams and made sure he never missed a school basketball or soccer game. My dad and I share a strong bond, just like the bond between my mom and I. I learned the true meaning of unconditional love after my mom passed away. I once read that you go through 4 stages of grief (denial, depression, anger, and acceptance). After my mom passed away, I continued to live with my father. As he was in the stage of depression, I was in the stage of anger. We went through many tough times, many so tough, that I wonder why he is still loves me the same way he has for my entire life. I almost can’t type my blog without crying. While I went through my stage of anger, my dad was the one who was the bearer of every break-down and moment that I would like to forget. I was angry because I wanted something that he couldn’t give me, my mom. I blamed him for her illness and for many things that were not his fault. I am not sure I would be as forgiving as my dad was to me, but I thank God every day for giving me a father that meets every definition of what a dad should be.

Although cancer has many negative effects, my dad and my relationship are living proof that with every storm, there is sunshine at the end.

Remedy

Remedy

Cobourg…….we finally made it to Cobourg. It seems like months since we were last in Toronto. We have finally settled into a routine. Although the end seems so far away, in reality, we are only a few weeks away.

Many people ask me what music I listen to on my runs. Many think I listen to up-beat, fast-paced songs. The truth is, the slower the music, the longer I can run. I find it cathartic to be in my own world, alone……just my mom and I. I have been listening to Adele’s song Remedy for the past few days. This song carries a lot of meaning for me.

I knew my mom was sick for months before she was diagnosed. We often argued about her going to the doctor. She refused to go in, even though we begged and pleaded with her. I was angry at my mom for not wanting to find out why her body was changing so rapidly. I felt as though she was letting us down. As I have gone through the healing process, I have realized that I was very selfish in that moment. In my anger and disappointment, I failed to see how worried and fearful my mom was. It wasn’t until my brother’s wedding that we realized how sick my mom really was. We bought her dress months before his wedding day. As the day neared, my mom was rapidly losing weight. Her dress had to be taken in almost three whole dress sizes. How could this be? Little did we know that the cancer was advancing at a rapid rate. When we finally received the news that my mom had stage 4 colorectal cancer, we were all in shock. Although we knew something was wrong, we never expected colorectal cancer. How could my mom have colorectal cancer? We didn’t know the signs and symptoms of a disease that is treatable and beatable. In that moment, we all prayed she would beat it. We were looking for my mom’s remedy. Unfortunately, her remedy never came.

As I listen to Adele’s song, I thank God for all of the “Remedies” in my life. My dad, brother, sister-n-law, nephews and all of my friends. I have been reminded about the true meaning of friendship on this run. My running partner in crime, Natalie, has been running her heart out with feet that are blistered (I mean blistered) and sore. Mary Jo has planned a seamless run and has truly taken us both under her wing. To the little sister I never had, Lauren, for taking care of my 3 children (dogs) at home, I cannot thank you all enough.

As we went through one of our toughest hill days, there were my friends. Waiting for us and cheering us all on. As we hit 14km of a rough patch, my friend’s daughter (Alyson) got out of the car and ran the rest of the way to help push us to our 20km mark. Alyson, you are a true inspiration and I know your dad was looking down proud. To all of my remedies, I am forever thankful. To my mom who helps me through every tough day, I think Adele’s lyrics explain perfectly how you guide me through life:

“When the pain cuts you deep
When the night keeps you from sleeping
Just look and you will see
That I will be your remedy
When the world seems so cruel
And your heart makes you feel like a fool
I promise you will see
That I will be, I will be your remedy” Adele

To donate to Sophie’s Run visit http://www.sophiesrun.org

The Bell

The past few days have been surreal. I anticipated the first day of the run for quite some time, but now that it is here and the run has started, the nerves and everything that I was anxious about has finally been lifted.

Today’s blog was heading in one direction, but after a very emotional visit to Lakeridge Health’s oncology unit, I felt I wanted to write about my mom again tonight.

I am very grateful to be working at Humber College. I work in the “cool” school known as HRT (Hospitality, Recreation, and Tourism) with many wonderful people. If it wasn’t for teaching, I don’t know where I would be today. My mom always dreamed of being a teacher. When my brother and I were young, my mom worked as a teacher’s aid. She was a natural artist and was known for designing the walls of her kindergarten classes. I definitely didn’t get her artistic gene, but thankfully my brother did. The first day of Sophie’s Run II was an emotional day. Our students in the Fitness and Health Promotions Program planned the 5km run/launch of the run, and our Hospitality Event Management and HTOM (Hospitality Tourism Operations Management) students volunteered and created an awareness event on campus. I know that my mom was looking down proud. Although she didn’t achieve her dream as a teacher on earth, her legacy engaged and inspired our HRT students. From above, her dream of teaching is being realized.

The first few days of the run have been tough, but we are finally settling into a routine. Today was our first awareness event at Lakeridge Health. Just like the first day of Sophie’s Run II, today was also a very emotional day. I will never forget the day my mom had her first chemotherapy treatment. Our family was anxious and nervous about the unknown. As we walked into her first chemotherapy treatment, we noticed a bell that was hung up in the oncology area. As I sat there waiting for my mom to be called in, I wondered what the bell was for. My mom’s first round of chemotherapy went very well. We were welcomed into Credit Valley’s Oncology Unity and instantly felt part of a larger family. Everyone waiting and receiving chemotherapy had a quiet bond that was united by hope and a strong faith. At the end of my mom’s first round of chemotherapy we were introduced to the bell. We were told that my mom would ring the bell on her last day of chemotherapy. The bell was significant because it symbolized strength, hope, and in some small way, fear. Fear that one would not get to ring the bell. Although my mom fought the fight of her life and taught me the true meaning of strength, unfortunately, she did not get to ring the bell.

Today, as we made our way into the oncology unit at Lakeridge Health, we had the honour of meeting Henry Westerhof. Henry is currently battling Stage 4 Colorectal Cancer and is in his 7th month of treatment. He inspired me today. His strength and courage is something that I will take with me for the remainder of the run. I know that Henry will ring the bell at Lakeridge Health.

The ending of our tour and visit at Lakeridge Health was marked with a symbolic ring of the bell. Although my mom never got to ring the bell, I was able to ring it for her today. When I rang it, the entire room cheered. Today’s bell made me realize that my mom did win her battle with cancer. She won it because she never let it define her. I don’t want my mom to be remembered for not ringing the bell. I want her to be remembered for the person she was. She was an artist and someone who dreamed of helping others. Today’s bell ring was symbolic and something that I will forever be grateful for.

Sophie’s Run II-Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

I cannot believe I am sitting here, writing a letter to you almost 10 years after you have passed away. When you were sick, I prayed and prayed that time would stand still and that I could have just have one more day, month, or even one more year with you. Now I sit here writing to you wishing I could turn back time and hear your voice for just one more minute.

As I embark on Sophie’s Run II, I thought my first blog should be a letter to tell you the things I would rush to the phone to call you about, or hurry home to have one of our long conversations that would carry on into the wee hours of the evening. I guess the hardest part of losing you was realizing that you are no longer a phone call away or a drive away. Time certainly does heal, but it doesn’t fill the void that will be missing for the rest of my life.

I will never forget the last night we spent together. I promised you that you would never be forgotten, and mom, you haven’t been. Your story lives on through Sophie’s Run, your family, and your grandchildren. As I prepare for another run, I want you to know that I am finally in a good place. I spent the first 6 years after you passed away angry and frustrated. I was angry with everyone who was moving on in their lives; as I felt moving on meant they were forgetting about you. I was told that I would see signs that you were still around and still watching over us all. Unfortunately, my anger blinded me from seeing that you were still with me and taking care of me in your own little way.

It wasn’t until I wrote a journal entry about dad and your 35th wedding anniversary that I realized I needed to move from being angry to being “ok” and living a life that you would be proud of. I remember the day dad came home and told you he was buying you a very special ring (a ring that you always wanted) for your 35th wedding anniversary. You were never materialistic and this ring was more symbolic of over 35 years of a relationship that endured through the good and bad times. Dad had your finger sized and started the process of having this very special ring made. I will never forget the day you turned to me and said, “your father thinks it’s our 35th wedding anniversary, but little does he know that it is only our 34th. Let him think it is our 35th.” Dad went ahead and arranged a special dinner and presented you with what he thought was your “35th wedding anniversary gift.” This ring is symbolic in sooooo many ways and taught me a very valuable lesson that there was a plan for you that we didn’t know about at the time. You never made it to your 35th wedding anniversary. A month after dad presented you with your ring, you were diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer and lived 10 days shy of your 35th wedding anniversary.

I am sharing this story with you because it taught me that there is a greater plan for us all. Six years is a long time to be angry and upset with why you are there and we are here. Now that I have let my anger go, I notice the subtle ways you visit me every day. Whether it be a robin that shows up on the front lawn, a visit to Costco (that we did together every single Thursday night), or noticing your ring sitting on my desk, I do know that you are still a call away or a visit away, just in a different way now.

As I begin the 500km journey to Ottawa for Sophie’s Run II, I will look for you along the way. This journey is different than the last, as I am finally ok with where I am in my life. I want you to know that I am happy and have embraced the wonderful friends and family you have guided into my life. I will continue to be your advocate and educate others about the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer. I promise you that you will never be forgotten and I also promise you that I will live my life the way you wanted me to, happy and not angry and sad.

I love you mom!
Nicole

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