Why I run with the Downeast Divas – Bravelets

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Why I run with the Downeast Divas

Posted on April 29 2016

Why I run with the Downeast Divas
Why I run or....Running for my life
Kristin Fuhrmann-Simmons, Downeast Divas Team Captain

I love a deadline. I have always functioned well under pressure and choosing to run in my 1st Disney Half-marathon was no exception. The high energy of planning and anticipation fuels me.

This goal also held great personal weight.

I ran the half marathon to honor my father, Dr. Calvin Fuhrmann.

In 2008, my father was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, At the time, his blood counts were good, and as a family, we engaged in what was called “watchful waiting.” It was in the late summer of 2011 that the mindfulness about the disease, turned from waiting to engagement. He was hospitalized for 2 weeks with a severe case of pneumonia, exacerbated by the spread of his cancer. His oncologist recommended chemotherapy to begin immediately. His treatment and healing necessitated the closure of his medical practice.

My father asked me to help him with this transition. It was a difficult for him, as medicine is my father’s passion, and even more so, was his drive to educate and connect with his patients.

My father was a runner. He was the only dad I knew who regularly ran 12 miles to and from work and who we followed to multiple New York and Boston Marathons.

It seemed an easy fit to choose to run to honor him, even though I had never raced or exercised in years for that matter.

Since my father’s hospitalization, I have met with hundreds of my father’s patients, acting as a counselor, friend, and shoulder to cry on. I have driven my father to his chemotherapy appointments and cooked countless meals. I have seen first hand the impact that he has had on the lives in our community, I hear these words often, “Your father saved my life." and “He is the best doctor I have ever had.”

It was easy for me to join the Team-in-Training or what is called the TNT. It is the fundraising arm of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, called the LLS. Runners walkers, cyclists and swimmers compete nationwide and raise money in that goes directly to research and treatment.

I knew that TNT was directly responsible for the time that I had with my father. Just 10 years ago, his diagnosis would have been met with a different prognosis.

I believe in in the power of research and science. I myself have been the recipient of a life saving procedure after being hospitalized with necrotizing fasciitis in 2011. Losing ⅓ of my calf and brick sized piece of my thigh would have meant countless surgeries, skin grafts, and years of physical therapy, were it not for the research and development of the wound vacuum system. Now, 4 and a half years later, my leg is saved and I in turn, can pay-it-forward.

The road to that DHalf-Marathon was long As I mentioned: I WAS NOT A RUNNER. I had only a conceptual idea what 13.1 miles meant. TNT paired me with a coach and mentor who were both blood cancer survivors. I quickly realized what it meant to get out on the road and run 2, then 5, then 8 miles, topping out with weekly runs of 12 each miles to prepare my body for race day.

Winter training in Maine can be tough:snowy days where everyone is at home snuggling and eating pancakes, I was out on the road. I thought of my dad every step of the way

I met up with over 2,000 TNT members from around the US and Canada.

Our team from New England consisted of many seasoned runners and cancer survivors, as well as many first-timers. I was nervous and kept relying on the messages told to me over and over again by my coaches and family: “I was prepared, I was ready, I was on fire.”

Race day was the happiest I have ever been to get up at 3:30 am.
I would soon find out that hundred of blood cancer survivors, decked out in the signature colors of purple and white would be screaming and cheering for me as I wound my way through the course. I had written my father’s nickname on my jersey and would hear the fans cheer: “ Do it for Poppy!” and “Poppy’s counting on you!”

My dad could not come physically to the race due to his chemotherapy treatment. He was there however in spirit and through the magic of Disney social media, text messages were sent to him of my mile times and I could hear in my earphones, the sound of his cheering.

Each day I had trained, I imagined the finish line. I knew there would be volunteers ready to place the coveted gold Donald Duck medal around my neck. I had visualized it and the stranger who would give me my trophy.
I met that stranger in real life after 3 hours and 15 minutes of racing. I hugged her so tightly. She regarded me and said beautifully and simply, “I am proud of you.”

At the finish line, I saw my happy family and loved seeing their faces peeking up over the guard fences. I sprinted to hug them.
I felt a sense of completeness and completion unlike any I had ever known.
I called my father after I was done and we commiserated about the quantity of runners (27,0000 of them), the finish line chutes, and the quality of the goodie bags. I told him how much I loved him.

It is not easy to face cancer, sadness over loss or even our mortality, it is not easy to get up and do things you have never done before. I found that I had the resolve not only to run, but also to participate fully in my life and my dad’s life. What strength will you find within yourself?

This year, TNT celebrates its 27th anniversary. Over four billion dollars has been raised by people just like you and me, including the funds raised by the 130 Leukemia and Lymphoma runners at this year’s Boston Marathon.

Fast forward 4 years, and what started as a team of 1, grew to team of 11 members. We call ourselves the Downeast Divas.

We run to honor my dad and our teammate’s 12 year-old son Matthew Pollini, and all the patients across New England who are in treatment for blood cancer.

The Divas are in a unique fundraising position. Donations go to three areas: hematologic research at Dana Farber in Boston, pediatric cancer care at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Maine, and New England-based patient and family support programs.

Why I share this with you? Small acts make big impacts.
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