April 18, 2013

Out Running Cancer

By Brittany
Introduced by Amy 

Brittany is my second cousin (my dad and her mom are first cousins).  She pretty much blows my mind: she is an amazing athlete (um, I am in awe of any sort of athletic ability...or any coordination for that matter!).  She is smart, kind, and beautiful 

I remember riding on the bus with her and our other cousin, Nicole, reading chapter books together, chatting and laughing the whole way to school.  As we got older, we were involved in different activities and made different friends, but we were always friendly to each other.  After college, it was sad to hear that her dad was fighting cancer, but I was also SO inspired to hear about his turn around!  The whole family became more health-aware.  Brittany writes about becoming healthy and her love for running on her blog "Running From It."  She also covers other topics, such as riding behind sled-dogs, getting engaged, dry-heaving on the side of the road, traveling to Hawaii and New York, and her incredible duck lip talent, just to name a few.  I don't even like to run, but her witty writing and awkwardly posed pictures seriously keep me interested and laughing.  

I am so glad she was willing to share this story.  Especially since I have chocolate-chip brownies calling to me from the cupboard...this is perfectly timed!  Cause, lets face it, we all have times when we need the reminder that exercise and good nutrition go far beyond just fitting into a smaller size of jeans--it's about living a healthy, strong life.  Creating healthy habits now just may save our lives someday!

My first encounter with cancer began many years ago.  As a young girl, one of my dad’s brothers found out he had stage four cancer.  I didn’t know exactly what that meant at the time, but I knew he was one of my favorite uncles.  He passed away.  Several years later, another one of my dad’s brothers also lost the fight to cancer.

Two years ago in January, my 54-year-old dad went in for a routine colonoscopy.  I love to give him a hard time and tease him relentlessly, so this time was no different.  It became a big joke that he had to have this procedure done and he was such a good sport.

My dad and brother in 2008
 The morning of his procedure came and I didn’t think twice about it.  Well actually, I must have thought about it, because I had a good joke prepared for when he returned home.

My dad was the first one through the door, when my parents returned from the doctor.  I didn’t look up from the workout I had been doing, when I jokingly said, “Did they tell you that you are going to live?” SILENCE.  My dad did not respond.  I finally looked up and I saw my mother’s face.  My heart lurched in my chest when I saw her.  I knew immediately that something was wrong.  With tears streaming down her cheeks, she responded for my dad, “No.”

I struggled in the months following my dad’s colon cancer diagnosis.  A lot of negative thoughts ran through my head.  I was not very optimistic for my dad.  My dad’s brothers received the same diagnosis with the same type of cancer, and there had only been one outcome.  I kept thinking I would lose my dad and it broke my heart.

Immediately after his diagnosis, my dad started riding a stationary bike.  He strived to become healthier before undergoing surgery.  Many prayers later, in March 2011, doctors successfully removed his cancer.  Although the journey was rough, his experience has become a HUGE blessing to him and many in our family.  Colon cancer prevention has become a big deal.

As many of you probably know someone with cancer, it can often come back.   There are a number of factors that can contribute to a colon cancer diagnosis.  Several of them are:

1. Obesity
2. Diets high in animal fats and low in fiber
3. Sedentary lifestyles
4. Not getting screened at the age of 50 (or 40 for those that have family history)

My dad decided that he would reduce all of those factors in his life.  After recovering from surgery, he stopped riding his bike and laced up his running shoes.  Six months after his surgery, he successfully ran his first ever 10k race!  I was a little bit worried when he agreed to do it.  I was a very proud daughter when he crossed that finish line!

I jokingly mentioned to him that he should run a half marathon with me.  Only a year after having several feet of his intestines removed, we stood together at the Salt Lake City half marathon starting line and agreed to try our hardest.  I cried as we went our separate ways and was already proud of my dad for trying.  After I had finished, I walked back to a difficult hill just before the finish line and waited for him.  When I saw him looking so strong as he passed a lot of people running up the hill, I cried again.  He was (is!) my hero.

My dad running up that final hill

After the race

Not long after recovering from the Salt Lake City half, it became our goal to run a full marathon (26.2 miles.)  At the starting line of the Logan Marathon on September 15, 2012, I remember my dad’s wave to me as we went our separate ways.  We agreed to do our best, but neither of us would be disappointed in the other if they didn’t make it.  I cried for the first mile.  The entire time I ran I had no idea if my dad was okay.  Seeing my dad run the final stretch of that marathon was one of my proudest moments.  A year and a half earlier, I didn’t know if he would even be around, so to see him accomplish something so hard made me very emotional.

Since my dad’s diagnosis two years ago, he has ridden his bike, walked, and ran more than 10,000 miles. To improve his diet, he drinks a green smoothie every morning and eliminated red meat. Finally, he gets screened when he is supposed to.  Many in our family try to keep up him these days, but it is virtually impossible.

This wasn’t a story about a mom, but many of us have personally been affected by someone with cancer.  My heart goes out to any and all of you had a loss.  I have so far been very blessed.  Because I had a slight glimpse of the pain that it can cause, I try to share what I have learned about colon cancer.  Colon cancer unfortunately is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.  With that said, it often can be prevented.  Virtually all colon cancers start as a polyp.  Having polyps removed before they become cancer, can be a big factor in preventing it.  Colonoscopies discover these polyps.  I will be getting a colonoscopy at 40.  If there is no family history, 50 is the suggested age for everyone else.  It can be an uncomfortable thing to talk about, but if caught early, colon cancer can be prevented.  I didn’t know that, but I am glad that I do now.



  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Amy, for your nice words! He sure is hard to keep up with!

  2. I loved this post. I know I lose my motivation to be healthier so often. After reading this, I realize my waist size (actually my thigh size) has been my reason for exercising and it's not a good enough reason. This post really puts things into perspective. Healthy lifestyles affect much more than our outward appearances. Thanks so much for sharing! What an amazing family and father/daughter relationship.

    1. SO true Hannah, health goes way beyond looks! And I agree, their support for each other is so amazing!

    2. Brittany! Do you even remember me?? I remember you as the super cute little sister of Jenni! I heard about your dad's diagnosis and am so glad to see he is doing well and taking control of his health - he's a great guy. And thanks for the needed motivation to eat better and exercise even if weight isn't an issue - you never know what the insides have going on :)

    3. Thanks Hannah! The experience sure has been a motivator for me!

    4. Sherie of course I remember you! You are so nice! I am so thankful he is okay so far.

  3. Great post, Brittany! I got all choked up when you said you were crying while watching him run - Im so glad he's doing better. You two are awesome!!!

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