On Oct. 3, my pretty 7-year-old cousin Cara was diagnosed with leukemia. Her parents, Wendall and Heather Hawxby, and little Cara were sent to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis the very next day, and on Oct. 5, they found out that Cara had Acute Lumphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), one of the most common types of children's leukemia, and thankfully, one with the highest successful cure rate. Still, it means two and a half years of treatments in a city far from their home in Nixa. The treatment will be in Memphis as well as in Springfield. It's going to be a long haul for Cara, her twin brother Garrett and her parents.
From the very beginning, I wanted to help in some way, but I didn't know what to do. Then, I found out my friend David Murphy was raising money to fight cancer by running in a 50K trail race. He wore a pink tutu in the race and, for a donation in honor of someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, he pinned a little pink ribbon with their name on his skirt. So, I gave him a donation and Cara Hawxby's name was pinned on his tutu. The 31-mile race was called "Turn the Trail Pink." Lots and lots of people donated; 76 names were on his tutu, and $2,147 was raised for the American Cancer Society. This was just one of several runs last year that David did to raise money to fight cancer.
I just started running myself, using the Couch-to-5K program, less than a year ago. Before that, my only experience with running was having to run line drills as punishment for not making free throws at high school basketball practice. I never thought I would love running, but now I do. Cara's mom, Heather, was one of the people who inspired me to start running. She started out walking, now she runs marathons.
My friends, Penny Britt and Kelli Humphries, ran their first half marathon in early fall and decided to run the St. Jude Rock N Roll Marathon in Nashville April 28. They asked me if I wanted to train and run it with them. At the time, I just laughed. I could barely run three miles without stopping - no way could I ever run 26.2!
But still, the idea of running a marathon never left my mind. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like something I should do. Then my little cousin lost her hair, and I made my decision. If Cara and her family could go through all that they're having to go through, I could run a marathon. If David Murphy could raise money by running, maybe I could, too.
I talked to Penny and Kelli and found out that Penny's husband Gene had attended school with Cara's mom, Heather. The Britts and Kelli, along with Shauna Rose Price, Tyne Rose, and Molly Ledbetter who are also running the marathon, all attend church at Mammoth Assembly of God, where Heather's parents Gary and Betty Heide attended until they moved to Springfield. So they've all decided to run the marathon in honor of Cara. Cara's mom Heather and several of her friends are also running the marathon. We'll all be wearing pink shirts with Cara pictured on the front.
I'm training with my mom and dad and they're going to run the marathon, too. Dad, who I know would like to run on ahead of me and make good time, agreed to stick with me and be my pacer. My mom said she just wants to cross the finish line and is hoping she's still on two feet and not her hands and knees.
While St. Jude covers all medical expenses not covered by health insurance, traveling to and from Memphis gets very expensive. Cara will be taking treatments for two and a half years so we're raising money to help the Hawxby family with those expenses. If you'd like to help, click on the donate button on the right side of this blog. We also have an account set up at Century Bank of the Ozarks.
One thing is for certain – knowing that we're doing this for Cara will make finishing even more important. Cara hands out pink bracelets that boldly say, "I refuse to give in! Cara."
If a sweet little 7-year-old girl can be that tough – I can, too.
I'll be blogging about training for my first marathon and I'll keep you up-to-date on Cara's progress. I invite you to follow Cara and me along on our journeys.