Outrunning Cancer

How getting off the couch can give you a leg up on beating your cancer. 

By
Karen Asp

“I’m running marathons—and helping others with every step!”

After running his first marathon at the age of 62, Don Wright wasn’t surprised when his back hurt after the race. But his concern grew when, instead of getting better, the pain became worse. After getting checked out by his family doctor, Don was floored when he referred him to an oncologist.

“That’s when I knew things were serious,” says Don, who lives in St. Paul, MN. Just weeks after running his first marathon, Don learned he had multiple myeloma.

The median survival rate for his type of cancer is five years, but Don resolved to be above average. He also resolved to keep running. In fact, Don decided that he needed to dream big, and gave himself a goal to live for: run a marathon in all 50 states.

Because multiple myeloma frequently weakens bones, running increases the risk of bone fractures in some patients and is not often recommended. But in Don’s case, doctors told him the running appeared to be helping strengthen his bones, and was keeping him healthier all around.

“Running is my meditation,” he says. “With every step forward, I see myself kicking cancer down the street, then stepping on it.”

In December 2012—just shy of 10 years after being diagnosed with cancer—he accomplished his goal by crossing the finish line of the Honolulu Marathon. “It was an incredible feeling,” he says. Even though he completed his goal, Don isn’t done running.

He’s already finished other marathons since December and is using running as a way to raise money for people with cancer via his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ERACECANCER. For every “like” he receives, he donates to Team Continuum, a nonprofit that pays for nonmedical essentials (like rent) for cancer patients, and the Tackle Cancer Foundation, which provides financial support to families with children who have cancer and adults with multiple myeloma.

As of press time, Don’s Facebook “likes” have generated between $5,000 and $7,000. “I’m proud of what I’ve been able to contribute,” says Don. “Especially when I hear from Team Continuum that my running and the awareness it’s created has contributed significantly to the nearly $1 million they raised last year. Now every step isn’t just helping me defeat my own cancer, but other people’s as well. What better purpose can you have than that?” 

 

Published
October 2013