I first realized my father was sick when I went to my parents’ house in north Jersey for my 24th birthday in February of 2013. Throughout his whole life he had been a contractor, quick with a joke, and sharp with numbers. Looking back, we realized there were signs something was wrong before that day, but that was when it hit us full on. The day before Thanksgiving 2013, after dozens of doctors, my Dad was diagnosed with ALS.
I decided I needed to do something to make him proud before we lost him and signed up for the New Jersey Marathon in spring 2014, overweight, out of shape, and never having run a race in my life.
From my birthday to the next year, I lost 90 pounds, and got myself ready. The entire time, I avoided going to my parents. I was terrified of it. From Thanksgiving to my birthday in February the next year, he had degraded rapidly. He lost strength in his upper body first. Physical activity winded him extremely quickly, and he no longer had the coordination, strength, or mental capacity to work.
I got hurt a week before the marathon and had to have surgery. I was devastated, not because I had worked so hard, but because I thought I had missed my chance. I cried for days. My doctor and my friends had told me to wait until the Philadelphia Marathon in the fall, that I had tried to do too much too quickly, but they didn’t understand why I needed to run so soon. I needed to run then, because we weren’t sure my dad would make it to the fall. I ran in New Jersey in the Spring of 2014, against my doctor’s orders, with stitches in my stomach. My dad was waiting for me at the finish with my family. I’m glad I didn’t wait, because by Thanksgiving that year, right around the Philly marathon, he was too weak to leave the house, and he wouldn’t have understood what was happening. Four months later, my birthday, February 2015, he died.
I’ve since become a pretty avid runner. It gave me focus when I felt like my world was crashing in around me, and it helped me cope. I wanted to do a 5k to raise funds for ALS because I think of him on every single run. My friends were nice enough to let me announce this on the anniversary of his death. He’s been why I run for years, and I want to raise money to support The ALS Association, because I don’t want a single person to go through what I went through. Putting this together has given me some of the most stressful days of my life. If the funds raised help just one family, it’ll be worth it. It made sense to me for a 5k to be a step in that direction. My friends and family are all coming out and there’s been a huge outpouring of support from the running community too. Please join us at the Conshy 5K on Sunday, April 24 or support us online.
I didn’t know about The ALS Association until after my father’s passing. My Mom had gone to a few support groups with the Chapter in New Jersey and they were able to assist her with equipment, but my Dad’s health went from inconvenient to terminal fairly quickly. The ALS Association helped my family when we couldn’t make sense of the world.
If you’d like to help my team raise money to support ALS families, click here to learn more. Every bit of support just motivates me to run further to accomplish my goal.