Fighting the Fight: Running for Seven with Cancer


I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to live my life thinking that the cancer I once had and fought might come back. Or what it feels like to panic when you feel a lump in your throat, or breast or somewhere else and think that it might be the worst. I can’t even fathom what it’s like to lose a spouse, a loved one, a father, a mother to this dreaded disease.

I can imagine the relief for those who successfully fight cancer to hear the words “you are officially in remission”. I often think of those people that get sick and their worst fears are confirmed when they hear the doctor utter those miserable words – “you have cancer”. This week, I received an email from a friend:

“Amazingly, I feel great even though I know I have cancer. I am calm and optimistic, walking the walk even though I cannot know where it will lead. These are times when you reorder priorities. There are things in my life that are beyond my control. I do not worry about those. My focus is on treatment, and on the things that I can control like contingency planning for my family and the firm and others that depend on me for support – all those things that we sometimes take for granted until confronted with an unexpected challenge”

The message stopped me cold in my tracks. In our days where we are so busy in getting kids out the door, getting to work, navigating work and personal challenges we don’t even stop to think about so many things. Can you imagine all of a sudden your world crashing in on you? According to the American Cancer Society, each year 1.6mm Americans are diagnosed with cancer; 12mm of us are fighting it, living with it or in remission; and 578 thousand people die each year – 1,500 a day. One in four deaths in America is from cancer. The good news is that the survival rate is up to 67% from 49% in the 1970’s.

I have made this MY PASSION – fighting cancer and eradicating this disease. This Sunday I will run the Boston Half Marathon and have raised over $13,000 and nearly $30,000 this year for Dana Farber through my two races. In the past ten years, I have run 12 marathons, 2 half marathons, trained over 10,000 miles and raised over $200,000 for various cancer organizations. The reality is that someday this disease might engulf me. Or you. Or someone we love.

When I run, Sunday I have seven people that I will have their initials on my shoes that are fighting, fought or have lost their battle. These seven are new since April. I want to run someday without initials on my shoes. That day will be a glorious victory for all of us.

I always say that I run because I can. Tonight, I picked raspberries after an amazing day with one of the most special people in my life. I savored the moments with her, soaked in the color of the leaves as we drove in the Jeep and felt the crisp fall air and as I conclude my day…enjoyed the amazing taste of these homegrown raspberries. I am lucky because I can do all that tonight. I am lucky because I can run and fight the fight for those who need it and will need it. 

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About Steve Mitzel

By trade Steve is a consultant that helps business optimize their performance. Steve resides in Connecticut with his four wonderful children in the teens or tweens and is always looking for the next adventure. He is an avid marathoner who raises money for research to prevent cancer. As a two time grad from the University of Michigan he bleeds maize and blue and also likes to dabble with writing.

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