Provided by Ron Marinucci
Runners are aware of the benefits of their activity. Physically, we run to lose weight or to keep it off. Running helps us to stay in shape, to maintain fitness, and lead happier and more productive lives. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, it eases stress and helps us to cope with the trials of daily life. It offers us ways to challenge ourselves in training and racing.
But sometimes life throws some of us curveballs, real yellow hammers. Running can help us battle them, too.
Analya Callendar works with the Graduate Business Programs at Oakland University. She began running in 1978, “when I was 32-years old. I wanted to be healthy and get in shape.” She recalled, “I was fortunate to have a physical education teacher as a friend of mine in the neighborhood. She worked with me for a year and a half, until she made sure I built my stamina and breathing to where it should be for running.”
“That was 38 years ago. I am 70 right now. My how time flies!”
Callendar “kept running into adulthood. I knew it was keeping me very fit.” She really enjoyed it. “It was easy to run anywhere, even on vacation. I just needed great fitting shoes to bring along.”
She began as a “casual and recreational” runner. “I ran from two to four miles a day, at least five times a week.” Then the racing bug came hunting.
“In 1987, I started running races, the 10K. I loved the excitement of being part of a big group and knowing there wasn’t really a large percentage of people who were actually able to run as their primary exercise.”
“Although we ran at different speeds, my husband started to join me in the races. I ran a half marathon in 1989 and started running longer distances after that.” She worked up to “about eighteen
miles at a time, maybe every other week.” Other days she continued to run a bit shorter, from five to ten miles.
“I found running to be very therapeutic. It relieved the everyday stresses of raising a family, moving, and returning to work. I think running truly gave me a ‘runner’s high!’ It gave me lots of energy, plus it was the time I had to myself to recharge, think things through, and [gave me] a chance to meet other runners.”
Then came 2012. For different reasons and under different circumstance, running would prove “therapeutic” for Callendar again.
“I was diagnosed with bladder cancer.” And she discovered some things. “I found out that it doesn’t matter if you run and eat healthy; you can still get cancer.” Her doctors at the University of Michigan Hospital told her that “several factors come into play that cause cancer. It’s not any one thing.” She reflected, “There are many others,” like her, “who lead healthy lives and still get cancer, too. So there are no [definite] answers.”
Callendar, age 66 at the time, contracted “a high-grade cancer, easy to spread. I had the tumor removed and treatments directly into my bladder.” But despite all that, thorough check-ups revealed “the cancer kept returning.” She was told her “best chance of living” was to have her bladder removed, to be replaced with a “neo-bladder” that would be created. “So, of course I took that route.”
That was in July 2013, “so I’m close to being four years clear.”
She emphasized, “Running definitely helped me get through the treatments, several surgeries, and some complications due to the surgeries. I always said I would be good as soon as I could get back to running, which truly helped me feel strong again, like I won!”
She still runs regularly, three to four miles three or four days each week. Optimistically she added, “I hope to increase to five or six miles [a day] this summer.”
Amy Masternak-Krzyzanowski is also a long-time runner. She, too, has battled back successfully from cancer while continuing to run. She also credits running for helping in her victory.
“I started to run in middle school,” she recalled, “because it was the only sport I could [do] with any quality. I couldn’t hit, kick, throw, or whatever else well.”
She continued to run in high school and did “a little in college.” After that, road races attracted her interest. She still does “races such as the Race for the Cure.” But her target now is to run a marathon in each of the fifty states. “So far,” she recounted, “I have thirty-four states.”
Currently, her weekly mileage varies widely, from fifteen to fifty miles a week. “It just depends on what I have going on.” She also manages to find time to fit in “Sully,” her horse with whom she competes in jumping. “He is just plain awesome!” she enthused.
As she approached her 40th birthday, Masternak-Krzyzanowski was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. Surgery removed the cancer. In addition, “I had four aggressive chemo treatments and thirty rounds of radiation. Knock on wood,” she said, “this June 7th will be ten years” of remission/cure.
Throughout her treatments, she kept running. “It helped me feel more alive, like I was fighting back!” She remembered, though, “The first day after chemo I asked my husband to come running with me to see what would happen. If I passed out, not to let a car hit me.” She didn’t and none did. “It was all good and I ran, slow but steady, through all of my treatments.”
She again mentioned Sully, “who has greatly helped me in my journey back to life, in more ways than one.”
Now, “I run all over the place. I run with some members of my family, friends, the Brighton Area Road Striders, and Downtown Runners and Walkers, anyone and everyone who will run with me.”
In addition to “working on my fifty states, I’m trying to get a little faster so I’m ready for the Race for the Cure on May 13.” She is a past winner in the survivor category of this race to raise money for cancer research and awareness. Masternak-Krzyzanowski added, “If anyone is looking to join a team [for the Race for the Cure], I would love to have them join ‘Amy’s Army,’ when they sign up [for the race]. The team was founded by Dave Peterson and Roman Krzyzanowki.”
Both Callendar and Masternak-Krzyzanowski want “more information to get out there,” especially with runners so people can “fight back” and “help.” There’s a lot to be aware of when it comes to cancer.
We all know the general benefits that running can and does provide. It’s good to see that it can also provide deeply personal ones, too.
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