"Ya know" not so long ago I took on a challenge of working with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (Team in Training). They asked me to raise A LOT of money that I thought I couldn't achieve. Well, thanks to A LOT of people who believed not only in the mission of Team in Training but in ME I achieved their goal and surpassed it. One of those people who believed in me and TNT was Brenda Luca.
Brenda was deep into her fight with metastasized breast cancer at the time but cheered me on from where she was. She and her husband Roger donated quite a bit to my fund raising campaign and I in turn put her name on my race shirts, my web site, and then participated with her in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in Leon County. About a month ago, I turned 40 and decided that it was time for me to "move up" in my running efforts. So, in honor of her and so many people that I knew affected by Breast Cancer, I committed to run the newest marathon in Florida: 26.2 with Donna: The National Marathon to Fight Breast Cancer. I told Brenda all about it. I told her that I wanted her right there waiting for me at the Finish Line at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, on February 17, 2008. I think I knew at the time it would be unlikely for her to be there unless that just happened to be a pre-planned trip to the Clinic for one of her treatments. But, I carried that hope with me nonetheless.
I told my momma, and one of my best friends Stephanie Corry, and my friend Cathy Cushing, and a ton of other people what I had planned. Then, last week (November 24, 2007) during one of our longer training runs (16 miles) I had an awful time. To be frank, it sucked. And, I began to question my plans and wonder just what sort of STUPID Pills I had taken that would make me think I had enough fortitude to run a full marathon. What was I thinking? Well, the week progressed and it was a pretty good week for me run wise. I did ten miles this morning (12.2.2007) in my best time yet. I was out there sporting my 26.2 with Donna run cap, and my 26.2 with Donna training shirt. In general, just thinking I was all that, and that maybe I might actually be able to finish the marathon. Then I got the news ...
My friend Brenda Luca lost her fight with breast cancer on Thursday (11.29.2007). Somehow, I just didn't think she would let it beat her. I truly believed that she and Roger would win. I just knew it. I guess it hurts, and it brings me to tears just to think about everything she went through to win. I can't imagine what it must be like to be her husband, her twin boys, or her family. I can't begin to fathom how the world will be a lesser place without her in it. But, I know that she wants us to continue in everything that we had planned. I know that she doesn't really care for the tears and the hurt, because that is not how she lived her life. She spent her time with us "living it up" and that is what she would want for those who were a part of her world. I just know it.
Below is Brenda (on the right) doing one of the things she loved the most - being on the beach with her family and friends. Who can blame her?
So, now what do we do? Who is going to step up and be the positive, never-ending source of encouragement, the smile in the midst of every adversity? Who will be "Brenda" when we need her? WE will. We HAVE to. I think each of us has a part of her that we are supposed to nurture, and grow, and use in a manner that reflects Brenda's spirit and will. I believe that if we all exhibit the part of her that she planted in us, she will continue to be a driving force in our lives. Find your seed that she gave you. Use it the way she would have wanted if she were here to remind you.
Me, I KNOW that she will be at the finish line in February. I know that she will be right beside me for 26.2 miles - she told me often that she wished she could run with me and my momma. Now she can. Not only can she run with me, but lucky her she won't have to train and buy new shoes; or worry about sore muscles; or getting tired or dehydrated; she won't have to count how many gels to carry with her; and she won't get all stinky and sweaty. But, I won't get to hug her at the end when the finish line officials place that beautiful silver dolphin and stained glass medal around her neck.
I won't win the race: I'm far too slow. But, hopefully one day the will exist a time when when we don't have to run races for cures. I am confident there will come a day when marathons are for fun (Ha!) and not for fund raising. I want to run the very first race where the race director advertises that they have the best scenery, not the best cause.
Brenda Luca has left a big imprint on my heart. I hope that I can do her memory and spirit justice. Truly, that is my wish for how her legacy will live on in me. That one in February: It's all you, Brenda! I will miss you more than you can know, and even more than I thought was possible. My love and wishes of peace to your Roger, Will and Jarrod.