As many of you are aware, I have been spending a portion of my time these past three years studying at SLU to finish my degree, working multiple jobs, and volunteering. The hat that I wear as a Hero and Ambassador for St. Jude is one of my favorites. Though I don't have my own St. Jude story that is cancer related, I do have a St. Jude story, and it's long and not even the full story.
During my early twenties, I hit a rough spot in my life. I have always been someone that bottled up my emotions, painted my face, and pushed through the pain towards things that are viewed as more successful. Though this was and sometimes still is a habit of mine, at 21 years of age I was told to move out and live with a man who had been pursuing me, very quickly. At 21, I was vulnerable and hurting, and needed support from family and friends but didn't know how to ask for help. And some of the people who should have been there were the one's pushing me farther away. The relationship I was in quickly became my life. I turned 22 years old and was supporting a partner that wasn't working, was co-dependent, suffering with his own illnesses and addictions, and I was tired.
During times I tried running, something I had loved very much as a child. Other times I was too busy commuting back and forth to work fulltime to support two people. At one point the stress was so bad in my life, that I dropped twenty pounds of weight. Though I looked good, the way the weight came off was not healthy. My partner choose to admit himself into a hospital, and I was not eating, barely sleeping, and surviving off of coffee and cigarettes. The sleep was so bad, that I would try to sleep because I was tired but would wake up multiple times throughout the night and would average maybe three to four hours.
I was hopeful for my partner to be sober, but after a month he made the remark that he was fine to have one drink. I didn't believe this, and the worst was discovering how much alcohol was consumed prior. I was informed that on days I was working, a thirty can case of beer would be consumed, and another moment I watched my partner reach for a 750mL bottle of gin and chug it like water due to alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
This relationship was emotionally, psychologically, and financially abusive. As a caregiver, I felt obligated to stay and help the person I had spent all this time with. I felt it was a failure to leave. I felt what people would think and say, and I for the longest time painted my face, got dressed and went to work. But even then I wasn't free from my own suffering and pain, I was called at work, harassed, and would often dread going home to what was waiting.
February 2015, I was either apathetic enough about life or grasping the little bit of hope that I had left. It was not easy, and it wouldn't have been likely without one of my friends. I often described the way I felt to people as if being on the Titantic while it was sinking. During this time, I was informed by some coworkers at Nordstrom that Florence + the Machine had released new music and I should listen.
First came "What Kind of Man," in February, and in March "St. Jude" was released. I spent 2015 watching, singing, and dancing to Florence + the Machine. I spent car rides screaming along and bawling. The album "How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful" was my life, was part of the healing and recovery.
The amount of times I sang "St. Jude" felt like praying. Though my circumstances got better after I left (I got a new position that paid more, improved my credit score, was able to pay bills and save, started taking evening course at the community college), I was far from healed. I tried religion and spirituality, but my experiences made my efforts seems futile. After being single for about eight months and having reorganized my life, I decided to start dating again but was disappointed.
Feed up with things, I choose to do something I had wanted to for a long time. When I dropped out of university in 2013, it was my intention to learn French and be an Au Pair abroad, those plans came back to me. I created a profile and started video chatting with families and going through the process. I was lucky, the first person I talked to was a great fit, and I purchased my ticket to leave for Italy in March 2016. My time between Oct 2015-March 2016, was still harboring feelings of resentment, inadequacy, and I feel like I mistreated some men, but at the same time coming from my experiences, I wasn't treated much better. I did meet someone, a very special 6'7" person, who I had spent a lot of my time with.
The relationship and friendship shared is complex, and even I probably don't have the clearest perception, but the moments and time did mean a lot to me. We shared our experiences, we discussed ideas, beliefs, and for the first time in many years I felt like I could really connect to someone other than my female friends and sisters. We continually talked throughout my time abroad, but eventually distance, life, and projection of past circumstances seemed to fog my judgement. Though my life appears to look beautiful and full of opportunity, what is going on under the surface is always more profound and messy. I eventually projected my concerns and past relationships on to this person, and choose to distance myself from them due to similarities in character, behavior, and occupations from my past relationship.
By February 2017, I had experienced awakening moments and was actively seeking ways to heal from the trauma of my childhood, my adolescences, my early twenties, the shame I carried from sexual abuse, and my own issues with relationships. In Florence, I purchased a beautiful silver necklace of St. Jude. The sister, who put it on me, had a presence of light and positivity and wearing the necklace helped reassure me that I am not a lost cause.
My faith and spirituality, actually are the most important areas of my life. They don't always get the care that I would like to give them, but I have faith that no matter the circumstances, I will be where I need to be and get to where I want to go. I trust that. I believe my pain and suffering has meaning, and I believe I am meant to share my story, but most of all I believe I am meant to help others by doing so. While in Italy, I started running again and since Au Pairs do not really make much money I decided to sign up for a race for when I got back home as a St. Jude Hero.
That race was the Rock n Roll 10K, and my fundraising amount was $500. Since then I haven't been able to quit. I complete my first full marathon in April 2018, raising $530; even before I ran that race I had already registered for Chicago Marathon and raised $3,066. Chicago Marathon was a beautiful experience, I got to bring my father with me and he attended a Pasta Lunch with me and got to talk to other individuals about the hospital and hear personal stories from the families and survivors of Childhood Cancer
I am a St. Jude Hero and Ambassador. Through running, I am a healing and changing my life, and I am forever grateful for my faith in God, and St. Jude for having helped me in those times where I thought hope was lost.
My goal for Memphis Marathon is to surpass $5000 in donations. I am training to cross the finish line on race day and with your donation we can cross the fundraising finish line together because the money you donate helps find a cure for childhood cancer. I am training my mind with school, my body through work and running, and using all my creativity to expand on ways to help those at St. Jude.
FACTS ABOUT ST JUDE CHILDREN'S RESEARCH HOSPITAL
Did you know:
- Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food - because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.
- Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to more than 80% since it opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude is working to drive the overall survival rate for childhood cancer to 90%, and they won't stop until no child dies from cancer.
- St. Jude freely shares the discoveries it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children.
Donate today to help me reach my goal. Even when the race is over, the fight to end childhood cancer continues.