My triathlon team has grown to over fifty people and we were given a team honoree. Her name is Jonelle and here is her story:
In November of 2000 I returned to my hometown to visit my parents at their house in Seattle, Washington for Thanksgiving break. It was my senior year at Santa Clara University and I had been tackling my senior thesis for my Major in Religious Studies. I had a cough and cold and slept straight through for the first two days of the week. My family and I thought nothing of it. If you have ever witnessed a college kid home for break the first thing they usually do is crash. I got over the cold that week but the cough remained. So, after multiple trips to multiple doctors I returned to college where my doctor at the campus health center finally threw up her hands and ordered the fated chest x-rays.
Skip to Friday, January 26^th^, 4pm: My doctor comes into the exam room with a face I had never seen on her before. She sits down on one of those brown, wheelie, stools (that all doctors have) and told me that I had a ”very large mass” in my chest. From the look on her face I knew I would have to press her for more information. “What kind of mass are we talking about?” “ Lymphoma” . . . was my response. Now, I knew that couldn’t be good because anything ending in “oma” never is. I looked at my doctor and said “that’s cancer of the lymph system isn’t it?” My parents flew in from Seattle that Sunday morning (my sister was a grad student at Santa Clara as well) and I was on the biopsy carving table that following Friday. After saving my life by draining almost 2 liters of fluid from my right lung and confirming that my mass was about the size of a small watermelon, the surgeon handed me over to my Oncologist at Stanford. Diagnosis: Hodgkins Disease – Stage 2b non-sclerosing Bulky tumor. That was the day I learned that “Bulky” actually is a technical, medical word. The funny part of this story is that at the moment when my Oncologist told me what I had there was an audible sigh of relief from my family and I. We had finally found out why I had been so sick. From that point on all the news was good. I had the “good” type of cancer; I was in the best hospital in the world for my disease being taken care of by the best doctors medical training has to offer. My chemotherapy and radiation regime was relatively short, my survival rate was a whopping 89%, my university bent over backwards to help me with school, and my angel of a mother flew down from Seattle every week for my treatment. More shocking then the news of the cancer was the immediate outpouring of support and love that I felt. I never knew so many people cared so much about me. It was the most humbling experience of my life. Every day the letters poured into my mailbox and every day people stopped by to visit or to bring my class notes. My Professors “went to bat” for me on all my assignments and my family became Superheroes. It was a circus for a while, but it was a circus of angels. What I had yet to learn was that I owed a large part of my survival to people like you. Team in Training helped aid the research for most of the medications that kept me alive as well as paying for the research the doctor’s needed to come up with my Chemo treatment. I didn’t discover this until the summer of 2002 when I joined the run team with TNT for my first marathon, making it across the finish line of the Maui Marathon in 7 hours 19 minutes. I have since run the Mardi Gras Half Marathon in New Orleans, the Home Depot Half in San Francisco and the Maui Half. I am honored to be a part of this team (even if I don’t look like it after a hard work out). Thank you for taking the risk to be here and run with us, it means more then you will ever know.