Home Kathleen Herring: Why I run

Kathleen Herring: Why I run


kathleen herringAt the sound of the air horn, hundreds of runners took off down the street from Waynesboro’s Ridgeview Park.  As my heart began pumping in the early morning air, my mind turned over the events which led me to this moment.

I am not a runner.  I don’t like to run.  In fact, I would say that I hate it, and ever since the end of mandatory physical education in the 10th grade, I have avoided running at all costs, preferring more “fun” avenues of exercise such as swing-dancing, zumba, cycling or racquetball.  And yet, this past Saturday I awoke at 5:45 am in order to participate in the Augusta Cancer Center Bridge Fund’s annual 5K race at the Waynesboro Extravaganza, because my best friend in the world has cancer.

Ten weeks ago, 29-year-old Joey Belcher was admitted to the hospital for what I thought was an exceptionally bad case of bronchitis.  He was unemployed and uninsured at the time, and had put off actually seeing a doctor for several weeks because he had no way of paying for any treatment, but his symptoms had finally gotten too severe to ignore.  On May 6, 2013, I found out that my best friend has non-Hodgkins lymphoma and would be starting chemotherapy immediately.  The coughing, chest pain and swelling in the neck and throat had been caused by blood clots, an immediate result of the growing tumor in his chest, and would most likely have killed him within a few weeks if left untreated.

Chemotherapy is expensive, and for a young man who, like so many others these days, was having a hard time finding work and had no insurance at the time, this diagnosis represented a gigantic financial burden on his family.  Joey would be moving back home to Waynesboro to live with his parents, Jim and Sandi Belcher, while I would be unexpectedly completing the move into my new apartment in Staunton solo.

The staff at Augusta Health Center were amazingly supportive of not only Joey but his family and other guests, myself included.  They allowed me full access during his hospital stay, answered all my questions and provided me with reading material to supplement their answers.  Throughout this time, Joey’s positivity and optimism kept us all going, and livened up the days of the doctors and nurses on staff in the hospital.  One new friend in particular was the hospital social worker, Leigh Anderson, who was assigned to help Joey and his parents figure out how to finance the treatments.

This wonderful woman was able to get all of Joey’s hospital costs covered, as well as the cost of his blood thinners, through the Augusta Cancer Center’s Bridge Fund.  This amazing initiative provides coverage of treatments for cancer patients who are unable to pay for a variety of reasons, and is currently saving my best friend’s life.  So when I was approached about a charity race to raise money for the Bridge Fund, I quickly found my name on the runners’ list.

It was especially humid this July morning, but as I struggled around the last bend and sped towards the finish line, I reminded myself that I was doing this to help Joey, that it didn’t matter if my legs hurt or I was out of breath or I really just don’t like running; this was for my friend, for the good cause, and for the smiling faces waiting for me on the finish line.  I didn’t win any awards that day, but I did set a new personal record.  And more importantly, I accomplished something that will help Joey, and others like him, to receive the care they need during the difficult journey ahead.

Ten weeks after the diagnosis, the tumor in Joey’s chest has been shrunk to less than half its original size by the chemotherapy, which is going well so far.  Joey is resting and recuperating at home, and maintaining his positive outlook and even writing a humorous blog to chronicle his ongoing journey.  You can find his story at http://www.perspectiveodysseum.blogspot.com.

This is a summer of new experiences for us both.  One thing’s for certain, however.  Even though I am NOT a runner, you can bet I’ll be signing up for this race again next year.



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