Sunday, May 24, 2009

Seth Harris

Last year I ran the Columbus marathon to raise money for blood cancer research with Team in Training. I am running again this year, both the Columbus and Tampa marathons. The very last mile of every race, regardless of the distance, was the hardest. Every training run and race, long or short, in was always the last mile. The 8th mile of a 20 mile race is easy, but the 8th mile of an 8 mile race is unbearable. I guess that's why they say distance running is 90% mental. All your focus is getting to a finish line with nothing left to give. If you are giving it all, I guess the last mile should be pure agony.

The worst race I ever ran was a 10 miler last July. There were multiple races using the path that day, ranging from 5k to 1/2 Marathon. To avoid confusion, they color-coded the mile markers by race, so you could pace yourself and know where you were. I was feeling good that morning, so I blew out to see how long I could keep up with the front runners. I didn't keep up with them very long, but I was still feeling great. I had forgotten my watch, but know I was clipping along at a good pace based on the mile-markers. And I knew I was ahead of several people who usually beat me. Then, as we came to the end, I was strong enough to sprint the last mile of the race. I was really excited about seeing my finish time on the race clock. Then, as I sprinted around the bend, looking for the finish and feeling proud, I saw I had been watching the wrong color mile-markers. I still had 3 1/2 miles to go. It felt like someone just hit me between the eyes with a 2 x 4. Those final 3 1/2 miles were the most painful miles I have ever run.

I still remember the expression of the kid at the last water station. I was groaning as I grabbed two cups of water from him and dumped just them on my head. Unfortunately he was not the water boy. He was the Gatorade boy. I was not having fun.

People laugh at me when I tell that story. I wasn't laughing. But afterwards, laying on the ground at the finish line, with sticky skin and stinging eyes from Gatorade, I started to laugh as well.

Running is actually run. It's something your do because you want to, and it feels good when you achieve your goal. But think about increasing the intensity of that last mile about a billion times. And then imagine a finish line that moves further away every time you get close. Finally, and a factor of life and death to the story. Do all this, you will just begin to get a glimpse of the battle of cancer.

You see, cancer does not have a known finish line. You fight with everything you have, but the finish line can move. Miles can be added to the race without warning. Then, after you finally cross the finish line, you can discover that the finish line was a lie, nothing but a mirage. You have relapsed. The race is on again, for an unknown distance, with unknown obstacles. And this is not a week-end run that you signed up to do with your friends. This is a race that runs for months or years. And this race is run by children, the conclusion of which will determine if they will ever learn to drive, go to school, fall in love, marry, or have children themselves.

Seth Harris crossed the finish line. He beat cancer. But the finish line was a mirage. He has relapsed, and the race continues. And this leg of the race has obstacles far greater than than before. Right now Seth is hurting, but he is still fighting. He is running his race with everything he has to give. He is in ICU. He is fighting off liver disease, he is fighting off graft verses host disease, he is fight off pneumonia. And all of that as he fights the cancer.

There is hope. There is a drug called defibrotide, that has saved several people in Seth's condition. It is is best option, and possibly the last. Unfortunately, the drug has still not been approved by the FDA. The hospital has agreed to use the drug, but can not find any. The family, breaking through every obstacle, is on an aggressive search for the drug. It you have any information about the drug Defibrotide that could help the family, you can call then at (601) 764-7350. Or, if you post it here or email me, and I will make sure they get it. These kids are incredible. All they want is a fighting chance. It is up to us the clear the path to give them that chance.

Mason McLeod is also still running his race. Please continue to keep him in your prayers. Over the past year he has come within view of the finish line several times, only to have it moved further away. Without hesitation, he continues the fight. Standing behind him is his family, searching every possible solutions for the best course of action. Please keep them in your prayers.

Rachel Tippie was told weeks ago to go home and die. The doctors said there were no remaining options, and a world wide search turned up no clinical trials. Rhonda, Rachel's mom, refused to give up. She called the American Cancer Society, and was sent information on 12 current trials for which Rachel qualified. I then connected her with our doctors at MD Anderson, and they knew of many options for Rachel. The Sandy Barker (Christian's mom) jumped in to help. After a two week battle over signing releases and paying for the flight, Rachel arrived at MD Anderson on Thursday. She is already eating and walking around the hospital, something she has been unable to do for a very long time. The stem cell transplant in lined up. Keep Rachel in your prayers. No doctors should underestimate the stubborn fight of a teenager when cancer tries to steal their life.

Justin Hutchins continues to battle. He had another seizure on Thursday. Tradition medicine does not seem to be bringing any answers at this time. Please pray for his needed miracle, and for the necessary options to save his life. And tonight, remember to hug your children. And whenever you complain about your teenager acting like a normal teenager, remember this picture. Remember the picture of Justin's mom, holding his hand, dealing with hospice, praying to God, and saying "I would rather have him awake and grumpy, and eating me out of house and home."



Arabian Fancy said...

Thank you so much!! I have posted this on Seth's Caring Bridge Site.
You will never know how much this means to all who love Seth!!!
Thank you so much!
( my daughter goes to school with Seth)

Arabian Fancy said...

Seth earned his angel wings this morning. His ultimate healing was with God in Heaven. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.