April 15, 2009

Why do I relay? - McNamara


In October 1994 while running the mountains of Thurmont, Md., my soul mate’s breathing started to become diminished and strained. This was very troubling to a very active and fit U.S. Marine Corps sergeant major. After some extensive tests, he was diagnosed with thymal cancer. He had a grapefruit-size tumor wrapped around his aorta and pressing into his heart and lungs. His type of cancer was only one in 60 such cases in the world. He was told to get his affairs in order as the survival rate was not good and they estimated he would live six months without treatment, maybe a year or two with treatment.

The Marine in him would not allow him to simply give up. He chose to fight back. In fact, he waged war on his cancer. He fought through his cancer with every fiber in his body. Not for a year, or two, or even three did he defy the odds; he fought for 11 years. He fought through countless rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, three major surgeries, a stroke caused by the chemo, and two heart attacks also caused by the chemo. Following his fourth metastasis, he lost his battle.

During his eleven-year battle, he walked the Survivor Lap at the American Cancer Society Relay For Life every year – rain or shine, good day or bad. He was there no matter what. Every year he would say, “One day, Babe, they’ll find a cure! Until they do you know where to find me every year!”

The summer of 2005 he made his final lap using a walker. He took a lot of breaks and kept refusing to ride in his chair. I followed him with his respirator and wheelchair, terrified the battery would run out before he got around the track. It was his last Relay. He knew he was losing his battle, but he refused to give up.

For this reason I choose to continue his battle. I Relay for Denis Michael McNamara and all of the Denis Michael McNamara’s of the world. Until there is a cure, you know where to find me every year!


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