As some of you may or may not know, I run simply to cross finish lines. Not to beat a time or try to go faster, simply to cross the finish line. Once this is completed and my finisher medal is received I then pass that medal on to my oncologist, Dr. Chunduri. You see, I often think, well, maybe not often, but always, I need to have something “on the books”, a race to participate in. If I’m signed up for a race I need to train for it. That means I have to be running. Right? So I do.

In my past life, my pre cancer life, I ran the distance of 26.2 or greater 34 times. No idea how many 5K’s, 10K’s or Half marathons. I ran a lot. I loved it. My post cancer life, still in treatment life (although by all standards it is a relatively easy treatment) I don’t seem to have the endurance I once did. Maybe it the drugs or maybe I’m just getting older. The important thing, the thankful thing, the grateful thing, is that I am still out there. Crossing those finish lines, collecting those medals. I do not need any more medals. I have boat loads of them. I give them to Dr. Chunduri to remind him he is keeping me going, keeping me healthy, keeping me crossing finish lines. Every medal is another victory for both of us.

So in November of 2018 my friends and I had walked a 50K (31 miles, not running, but I can still pull off a mean walk!) and I happily passed on the finisher medal. A couple of weeks after that I was settling into my chemo chair getting ready for the for the next few hours when a woman came up to me smiling.

“I have something for you,” she said reaching out for my hand. As she held my hand she explained she had been there when I had given Dr. Chunduri his finisher medal. A friend of hers battling breast cancer had passed the bracelet down to her and she was now passing it down to me as she felt I was more of a Wonder Woman than she was (she found the whole 50K thing very amazing). We chatted a few more minutes and I found my new found friend Joyce had been battling breast cancer for 10 years. I felt like a rookie going into my 3rd year of battling the FRB’s.

As we continued to chat I saw her beautiful smile, her engaging face, both belied the fact she had metastatic breast cancer and was nearing the end.

I unwrapped the tissue paper and there was a Wonder Woman bracelet. It felt heavy in my hand. Our eyes locked and I knew this was a very special gift. That following January I ran/walked the Naples half marathon wearing the bracelet Joyce had gifted to me. I ran the race for her.

Shawn Tegtmeier and friends at Naples, FL race

This January it was time to participate in our 3rd Naples Half marathon. We have made it an annual event. Something on the books to keep us running. I have to admit, the past couple of halfs we have run I have struggled at the end. Always around mile 11. I can literally feel my heart pounding as my heart rate jumps up. Walking longer brings it down. This year I was a tad worried about finishing because I have been battling a cold off and on for the past two or so months (as is everyone in the Chicago land area). I was feeling great last week, cold, cough and blowing my nose free. Waking up the Wednesday I was flying out I knew it was back. Hot toddy’s, Nyquil, baking in the Floridian sun, we were trying every trick in the book to keep the monster cold at bay.

Getting ready on race day I made sure I had on my Wonder Woman bracelet. The day was optimal running, starting out at 7:00am, 60 some degrees, perfect!

As we ran along I could feel myself growing stronger with each step. Our 2 minute run, 1 minute walk interval pattern was quite doable. Nearing and then passing the 10 mile mark I began to be a bit apprehensive. “This is where it happens. This is when my heart rate rockets off the charts.” Mile 11 ticked off without a hitch. Next thing I knew mile 12 was behind me. My heart rate remaining steady, not soaring up as it had in the past. I picked up my pace as I felt as if I could almost skip.

I kept thinking of Joyce, who had lost her battle to the ugly disease. I thought of my dad another warrior who had lost his battle almost 13 years ago. I thought of my Uncle Denny who is currently battling. I thought of so many others who have battled and are still battling. If all of these warriors could battle as hard as they could, as long as they did, surely I could finish this 13.1 mile race. And I did. Joyce and her wonderful gift with me every step of the way.

Shawn Tegtmeier and friends in Naples, FL