Out of all of the memories I have from training for my first marathon, there’s one that stands out to me more than any – and one that has motivated me to maintain a consistent and passionate involvement with Gilda’s Club.
It was a hot August night. I was rounding out mile 9 of a training run around the reservoir in Central Park, and I was trying to think of an answer to the question “why do I care about cancer?”
Now, before I give off the wrong impression, let me backtrack and explain my thought process.
Like many people, I’ve had grandparents who passed away as a result of cancer complications after they had lived long and happy lives. Some of my best friends have lost parents, siblings, aunts, and/or uncles prematurely to the terrible disease – so of course, when I was trying to answer the question “why do I care about cancer?” I immediately thought of those instances.
However, I’ll admit that until I’d heard of Gilda’s Club, I was living with slight tunnel vision when it came to cancer; I always kept the people living with cancer in the forefront of my thoughts, but I never gave much thought to the support teams that go into helping someone fight cancer, or the support teams that help those supporters.
So like I was saying, I was rounding out mile 9 of my training run on that hot night in August, and it suddenly dawned on me. I actually don’t care about cancer at all. In fact, I hate cancer, and I hate that we have to talk about it on a regular basis, and that it negatively impacts so many people, families, and friends. But the truth is, when you hate something, it means that (in a sort of catch-22 fashion), you actually do care about it.
And because I care, and because I wanted to do more to help those who were living with cancer, I ran the 2014 New York City Marathon, and I was honored to have had the opportunity to raise money and awareness as a member of the Gilda’s Club team. There were many charities and organizations that runners could have signed up for – rotary clubs, local camps for children, and other cause-related organizations – all of which are extremely important, but for me the choice could not have been more clear.
So after running more than 800 miles to train through 2014 (not a typo), on November 2nd, 2014 I ran through my own injuries, and 50 MPH winds. I ran because I care for those who had run, who do run, and for those who will run in 2016 and every year. I ran for those who want to run, but are no longer able to. I ran because I care for those who have fought, who do fight, and for those who are supporting the fighters. And lastly, I ran, I raised funds, and I raised awareness because I care for those who are living with cancer, and in the most difficult race of all – the one for their lives. I carried them with me, as Gilda’s Club has carried so many people who live with cancer. And now it’s your turn.
With Gilda’s Club, together, we can make more strides toward finishing every race.
- Neil Heckman – 2014 Gilda’s Club NYC Marathon Team
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