November 29th, 2011
11:45 AM ET
In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle - injury, illness or other hardship –- they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed. This week we meet Don Wright, who developed a passion for running marathons later in life, right before getting diagnosed with cancer. His goal is to run 50 marathons in 50 states.
"I've made an appointment with an oncologist for you." These are words that no one wants to hear from their doctor, ever. It was multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer with a median survival of about five years after diagnosis.
I had lost weight at Weight Watchers', then started running, and had just run my first marathon. Myeloma attacks the bones, and a broken bone would stop my running, so I was determined to run the Boston Marathon before I lost the ability to do so. I qualified for Boston and then ran it, then a few more marathons here and there. I had no reasonable expectation of finishing all 50 states.
I have this incurable cancer, and my most pressing health problem is runners' knee!
My doctors are uniformly enthusiastic about the running as a way to strengthen my immune system and my bones. "We're not sure why it works, but keep doing what you're doing."
We can't know how long this treatment will continue to keep the cancer from growing, but for now, my family and I are relishing the extra time that I have been given, by traveling and doing these marathons together. They are a celebration of life!
I stand at the starting line and get choked up, thinking of the people I know who haven't survived myeloma, and how lucky I am to be alive and able to run a marathon. I can't wait to start the race. Even on a cold, rainy day in Seattle, I enjoyed every moment. As I run, I sometimes imagine that I'm just floating along, drifting past the scenery. I feel wonderful, and we're going for all 50 states.
Since August I have also been running on behalf of Team Continuum, a charity started by a man with myeloma. It helps patients and their families meet their daily expenses while fighting cancer. Here's how you can help:
– Click "like" on this Facebook page and a donor will contribute $5.00 at no cost to you: facebook.com/ERACECANCER.
– Go here if you would like to make your own donation directly to TeamContinuum.net.
With my cancer I am very lucky to be able to run marathons, and I feel even more privileged to run them on behalf of other cancer patients.
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.