Tuesday, August 25, 2015

#SoleSisterPower #Activate

Let's just say I have had better weekends. The past few days have been a myriad of emotional highs and lows for me.

Losing someone is never easy. Believe it or not, it's even more difficult when it's someone you've never met face-to-face, hugged, or high-5'd. But yet, you feel as if you've known them your entire life.

Such was the case with the friendship Michelle and I shared. I met her in January of 2013, just after I started this blog and my Facebook page Running on the Fly . Her and I had an instant connection....close in age, married with teens, and both of us were about to embark on training for our first marathon.

We messaged each other frequently, and sent cards and "goodie packages" back and forth from time to time. Shortly after completing her marathon (November 2013), she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Thus began the toughest race of her life.

She went through several months of treatment and, in the summer of 2014, was given a clean bill of health. There were several others, as well as myself, who were blessed to receive Sole Sister socks from her in the mail. She was so excited for what the future held for her, and appreciative of the friendship and support of her "Sole Sister Team." The socks were a token of her gratitude.

What I don't think Michelle quite realized, though, is that not only were we helping her through that difficult time...she was also helping us.  I have never been through chemo, but have known people who have had to endure it. I know it's a scary and challenging experience, and not very pleasant. Michelle, however, made it seem like it was just a small hurdle to pass over. Her spiritual faith was impeccable, and she always had a positive reflection to share or an uplifting Bible verse.

Imagine our shock and disbelief when she told us that the cancer had returned this past winter. More treatments, followed by some setbacks...but all the while Michelle continued to stay positive. The treatments weren't working as effectively this time. And there were complications. None the less, she was always one step ahead of us...sending us birthday cards, surprising some of us with hand-made presents, and always being positive about her situation.

She passed away on Thursday morning, but most of us didn't find out until later in the day. It truly felt like the world had briefly ended. I had just sent her a pic of me from my race last weekend (I was wearing the Team Michelle bracelet she had sent me) and she'd replied back, congratulating me on my finish time.

Several of us have been messaging/texting/consoling each other on the loss of our friend and Sole Sister. And none of us have ever met her in person. That's the beauty of our running community.....we don't have to meet face-to-face to know each other. All of us are hurting, and all of us feel a huge void. But yet, I don't think Michelle would want any sadness...so I am dong my best to celebrate her memory and truly appreciate all the beauty she brought into my life the short while I knew her.

I went for my first run  since her passing on Saturday morning. The air was humid, the wind was a bit crazy, and my legs felt like lead. I decided to take a different route, and do a good-sized hill....a hill I'd been eyeing but had never before attempted.

Most of the run felt difficult....until I began the ascent on the hill. I never once had any fleeting temptations to walk, but instead I felt an intense inner strength like never before. I made it to the top of the hill (about 3/4 mile) and felt incredible.

As I began the descent, I suddenly realized I was not alone on that hill. Granted, I was wearing my Team Michelle bracelet, but I think Michelle herself was also with me. I was so overcome with emotion, it was difficult to breathe.  Have you ever tried to run and cry at the same time? #noteasy #nearlyimpossible

Those seven miles on Saturday were difficult, but also fulfilling and very cathartic. Michelle left a very vivid mark on all those who knew her. Although the time her and I shared as friends ended much too soon, I am so grateful for what we had.

We love you, Michelle. And we'll miss you. #SoleSisterPower #activate

Have you ever lost a "virtual" friend? Ever done a difficult run, but felt empowered to keep going?