LARSON: Tumor inspires action to increase awareness

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

I'd be remiss if I let National Brain Tumor Awareness Month slip by without mentioning the remarkable efforts of a young woman named Kristen Sheffield.

"In May of 2008, my husband, Ian, began complaining about 'episodes' that he was experiencing several times a week," Sheffield said. "We didn't think too much about it since we were just moving into our new house and planning our wedding. After our June wedding began, I scheduled a physical for Ian. That's when the roller coaster ride began. In August 2008, a brain biopsy showed that Ian had a grade II Oligoastrocytoma brain tumor. In October, Ian began chemo treatments."

But Sheffield didn't let that roller coaster determine the path for her life. To raise awareness of brain tumors, she signed up for six half-marathons with a goal of raising $6,000 for the American Brain Tumor Association.

"I am excited to think about what I will accomplish in 2010 and extremely appreciative of the encouragement I have received so far. This goal helps me feel that I am somehow taking control of an obvious uncontrollable situation. I hope that by doing this, with the help of my family and friends, Ian and I will make a difference in not only our lives but hopefully others who are going through something similar," Sheffield said.

In only five months, Kristen has achieved 97 percent of her goal. So she's setting a new one. She said that in her last marathon, when she was soaked in the pouring down rain, she began to wonder why people did this. At that moment her running partner, Lindsay, said, "Isn't this fun?"

"I laughed and thought, well, it is fun. I felt more alive and physically fit at that moment than I had since my last long, difficult run. So without knowing it, Lindsay answered my question," Sheffield said. "People run 13.1 miles because it's hard, it's physical, not everyone can do it and it makes you feel alive. And when people are sick, especially when dealing with potentially terminal illnesses they want to feel alive. They want to feel that pain you get when you push yourself to go further and harder than you thought you could."

So Sheffield started pushing herself to do her first triathlon.

"It's a little scary. I know I can run a half-marathon even without a lot of training. Doesn't intimidate me. A triathlon does," Sheffield said. "As I was making my pros and cons list I realized that if I don't do it, it is because I'm scared. Who wants to be scared to do something because it is hard? No way to live. That's something I've learned from Ian, who recently made a bold, courageous move. Life is short, live it and live it hard. No regrets. So end result -- I've decided I am going to do it."

And she will do it -- with my son Ian running right beside her.

For more information, visit www.abta.org

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.