Words can't begin to describe my feelings on that cold February morning as I watched thousands of people run through the start line at the sixth annual 26.2 with Donna: National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer.
As an intern at Mayo Clinic in the Department of Public Affairs, I had assisted with preparations for this event. But as I stood there watching the runners and walkers, I realized there was so much more to it. The energy was almost palpable. The passion and commitment of the participants, despite a half hour delay and the near freezing temperatures, was obvious. It seemed like everyone was smiling.
Working with Team Mayo Clinic, I learned the Donna event was not just about breast cancer. While 70 percent of the proceeds received from the 26.2 with Donna events support breast cancer research, other programs at Mayo Clinic also benefit from the findings, including those aimed at lung, pancreas, thyroid and ovarian cancer.
When I learned just how far-reaching the research was – and began to write stories about some of the Mayo marathon participants – I immediately thought of my godmother Katie. I have some amazing memories of her – from traveling together to celebrating birthdays in my native Hawaii. But I also remember being a confused and scared thirteen-year-old standing by her bedside as she fought colorectal cancer for a second time.
She was young. She was vibrant, and she was a fighter. But Katie died a few weeks after I saw her.
As I watched the runners cross the finish line that afternoon, I couldn't get Katie’s image out of my mind. The participants in the 26.2 with Donna were running not only for their loved ones, but for anyone who was, is or had fought cancer. The fact that almost 10,000 strangers were all fighting for the same thing – to finish cancer – made the day one I will not soon forget. It was an emotion-filled day but one that also gave me some direction.
I’ll be graduating from college in a few weeks and before the marathon I wasn’t 100 percent sure of what I wanted to do. Now, my plan is to focus on finding a job in health care marketing and communications. I want to do something that matters and my hope is that I find a job where I can make a difference, where every story I write, or every project I work on, will benefit someone else.
Written by public affairs intern Monique Damm