Leukemia survivor runs marathon
Friends Kim Miller (Windsor), Janice Davidson and Nancy Robbins raise their arms in victory after they completed the San Francisco marathon. Submitted photo
Janice Davidson stood at the start line for the annual Nike Women's Marathon last month in San Francisco. The Clarenville native wasn't alone - 20,000 women stood strong with her.
At her side was close friend Kim Miller (nee Windsor), formerly of Clarenville now residing in Kimberley, B.C.
A year earlier, Miller ran the marathon for a friend's daughter who had been diagnosed with leukemia. And she was running for Davidson as well.
Last spring, Davidson was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and immediately underwent an aggressive series of treatments.
The treatments took their toll on the mother of three.
Thankfully, for the past year, she has been feeling fine.
The Nike Women's Marathon is one of the largest women's marathons in North America.
It is a fundraiser for the Leukemia and
Lymphoma Association, an organization Davidson got to know a lot about over the last 18 months.
When she was first diagnosed Davidson made a promise to one day run the marathon in San Francisco. It was to be her way of saying thank you to all the women who take part in the event and raise money for leukemia and lymphoma.
"I remember saying to Kim the day she ran the marathon last year that I hoped we would one day run the marathon together," Davidson said. "I never dreamed I would be doing it so soon."
Also joining Davidson in San Francisco was her friend Nancy Robbins.
Robbins recalled visiting Davidson in hospital. Her room was filled with all kinds of gifts.
She asked what she could give. Robbins' reply was, "Blood. It truly is the gift of life."
On a cool day in March, Davidson and Robbins agreed, "OK, let's do this." They began their training.
The friends decided they would run the half marathon in San Francisco.
Neither had run in an organized meet. But, undaunted, they started training, running together once a week.
"We set goals for ourselves to lead up to the marathon in San Francisco," Robbins said.
Their first test was a 10-kilometre meet in Garnish. It was set for May. The day of the race was cold and wet.
"The weather for the Garnish run was terrible," Robbins said. "Nobody with any sanity would have run. Because the weather was so bad the event attracted only the most competitive and die-hard runners - and us," she joked.
With one event under their belts their next goal was to complete the Tely 10 mile race, a distance of 16 kilometres.
"We figured if we could run the Tely 10 we could do that little extra for the San Francisco marathon, a distance of approximately 22 kilometres," Robbins said.
San Francisco excursion
Davidson and Robbins arrived in San Francisco Oct. 14. The race was scheduled for Oct. 18. They met up with their friend Miller and the five other members of Team Chloe - the women who had run the previous year for the little girl with leukemia.
It wasn't all competition, though.
With five days before race day the friends decided to take in some of the sights and sounds of the west coast city.
"A few of the girls on the team are very serious runners and were focused on doing the full marathon," Davidson said. "We're not that avid, so we tended to shop till we dropped."
Shopping wasn't the only thing on their list of things to do. They took in a play, visited the Napa Valley region, toured Alcatraz and visited the famous Fisherman's Wharf restaurant.
"It was a great time," they chimed.
The eight members of Team Chloe were up at six a.m. on race day and at the start line before seven o'clock.
"You're standing in a sea of heads - 20,000 women all there for one cause," Davidson said.
"The interesting thing is that the marathon isn't about the run so much as it is about the cause. That was so unique."
"You're surrounded by an amazing group of supportive people. It's still dark and they play the national anthem. It was an amazing feeling," she said.
"We went with the intention that we were going to complete it and enjoy the experience."
And what an adventure it was, she said.
"It was a wonderful experience. I'm really grateful that I have good health to be able to have done the half marathon. Not only to complete it, but to do it with great friends.
"I certainly feel blessed," Davidson said.
Robbins was just glad to be part of the team.
"It felt good to stand by Janice's side and be part of that team. It was a real special bonding experience," she said.
Miller added, "One year ago, I ran for Janice. This year she showed me she didn't need me to run for her. She could run for herself."
Lots of surprises
There were many memorable moments along the route for both women. Like the bands that played and the choir that sang or the DJ playing music.
"It was over the top in so many ways," Robbins said. "When you finish the race, you walk to an area where you are met by a fireman dressed in a tuxedo. He's holding a tray with the signature Tiffany's necklace that's received by every runner that completes the marathon. Then it's off to another area where you are given the Nike Women's Marathon
For a good cause
This year's marathon raised more than $14 million. Over the years, the marathon has raised $92 million for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Association.
Davidson knows first hand how important it is to raise money for research. She also knows the importance of giving blood.
"It's really important that people donate blood," she says. " Can you imagine someone coming into your hospital room and saying, 'I'm sorry, there's no blood today.'
"It's a wonderful gift and it doesn't take a lot of time.
"When I think of my husband and my three children, and someone donating blood so I can get it is a wonderful gift. Not only for me but my family."