Running Down Cancer

Who are my heroes? Living Journeys clients. Period! What can I do to help? Run Down Cancer one step at a time. How many steps? How about 100 miles-worth in McCall, Idaho on 9/12/2020? Done.

Wait. Let’s make it a rowdy Living Journeys Fundraiser. Got it. How much? Let’s dream big. Hmmm. 44. The famous football Jersey at Syracuse University worn by legendary, African-American running backs Jim Brown, Floyd Little, and Earnie Davis. $44,000? Yes.

What next? Train like your life and the lives of others depends on it (which it does in the case of our courageous LJ clients). Train hard. Post training photos. Establish a Giving Link. Train harder. $11,000. Check in with my team – LJ staff and fellow LJ board members. Get reduced to tears when the run hits $22,000. Grind more. I get dozens of inspiring testimonies from donors with cancer, survivors, caregivers, and those impacted by family members and friends with cancer. Grind more. Boom! We hit $44,000 by mid-August. One month until run. Train harder. I don’t want to let anyone down.

An emotional explosion hits in late August. There is too much love, too much generosity, too much pain that I feel for our beloved clients. Run more. Run for them. Take myself out of the picture completely. Back on track. By September 1, we hit $55,000. Another tidal wave of inspiration.

Road trip to McCall with dear friend Dustin Simoens, husband of cancer survivor and LJ Board Member, Mikaela Simoens. I was Mikaela’s 7th grade English teacher while she was undergoing cancer treatments. It’s all too powerful. Emotionally exhausted. Spiritually electrified.

Patrick Exley O’Neill
Patrick Exley O’Neill

Who are my heroes? Living Journeys clients. Period! What can I do to help? Run Down Cancer one step at a time. How many steps? How about 100 miles-worth in McCall, Idaho on 9/12/2020? Done.

Wait. Let’s make it a rowdy Living Journeys Fundraiser. Got it. How much? Let’s dream big. Hmmm. 44. The famous football Jersey at Syracuse University worn by legendary, African-American running backs Jim Brown, Floyd Little, and Earnie Davis. $44,000? Yes.

What next? Train like your life and the lives of others depends on it (which it does in the case of our courageous LJ clients). Train hard. Post training photos. Establish a Giving Link. Train harder. $11,000. Check in with my team – LJ staff and fellow LJ board members. Get reduced to tears when the run hits $22,000. Grind more. I get dozens of inspiring testimonies from donors with cancer, survivors, caregivers, and those impacted by family members and friends with cancer. Grind more. Boom! We hit $44,000 by mid-August. One month until run. Train harder. I don’t want to let anyone down.

An emotional explosion hits in late August. There is too much love, too much generosity, too much pain that I feel for our beloved clients. Run more. Run for them. Take myself out of the picture completely. Back on track. By September 1, we hit $55,000. Another tidal wave of inspiration.

Road trip to McCall with dear friend Dustin Simoens, husband of cancer survivor and LJ Board Member, Mikaela Simoens. I was Mikaela’s 7th grade English teacher while she was undergoing cancer treatments. It’s all too powerful. Emotionally exhausted. Spiritually electrified.

IMTUF 100 is my 10th 100-mile running race. I have won two, but nothing compares to running this race for Living Journeys clients! I am flooded with gratitude, love, and awe. Then, it hits. FB friends send me and Dustin 212 notes of encouragement, and at the 6:00 a.m. start line, I turn to Dustin and whisper, “$63,000, buddy.” Our eyes fill with tears, and the start gun shatters the dawn and the reality of unbridled, relentless love and support for Living Journeys.

On course, I experience unbearable heat and cold and blisters and dehydration. So, what do I do? I think of LJ clients. I think of their radiation and chemo and immunotherapy and terrified kids. They endure, and so can I! At mile 79 of this 108-mile, 23,000 feet of climbing running race, I am hurting… big time. Bing! A text from Laci Wright, a proud LJ client, lets me know that she is wide awake and that she believes in me and my “limitless” courage and strength.

I become weightless, joyful, alive. I run my fastest miles in the last 29 miles. Then, an epiphany hits me like a baseball bat. “Winning is not wanting to win. Winning is making sure others win.” In this case, our incredible Living Journeys clients. I cross the line after running over 30 hours. The longest I have ever been out in a 100-miler. 2nd in my age category and the 46th male runner to finish. Who cares?!?!  WE win. All of us. I am flooded with humility and tears. I miss my wife and twin daughters and my best friend and father who I lost to cancer. I drew on the strength of my heroes, Living Journeys clients. So, that night, we ran down cancer together. LJ donors, clients, caregivers, family members, friends, staff, board members, and volunteers. WE won! With courage, hope, and truth. And, my life will never be the same.

With gratitude,

Patrick Exley O’Neill

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