Jenn’s One Medal run is for her friend MJ. Here is her story:
Monica (MJ) and I met during our first semester at Eastern New Mexico University in the Fall of 1998. We pledged the same woman’s fraternity, Zeta Tau Alpha, and became instant friends. As things will sometimes align, we played the same sports in high school, our birthdays are one month apart. And ( she would always be older than me and that was ok). In between our many crazy contests, we would just laugh. She always accepted me for who I am and is a constant support in my life. MJ quickly became one of my best friends.
After graduation, life has a way of moving people around the country. After taking our different paths, we ultimately landed back in Albuquerque. It was always comforting to know MJ was in town. When schedules and life would allow, we’d meet for coffee and laugh like it was yesterday.
I remember hearing that MJ was expecting and thinking to myself “my buddy is pregnant”. It was a great to see her at the hospital when her son Miles arrived. . Today she has an amazing son, Miles. Facing this new phase of her life as a single mom provides its own challenges and priorities. Our coffee dates were more sporadic but I was always fortunate to see her and Miles more than a few times.
In early 2012, I picked up running and set a goal of running ten 5Ks in a year (I ran 12 that year). The 5Ks continued into 2013 when my first 13.1 was in the books. At the beginning of 2014, I heard the news that my good friend Monica, was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. You remember those phone calls. She was telling me about how quickly she was with moving forward to aggressively beat the cancer.
I remember being in total and complete shock that one of my best friends, that I have known for over 15 years has breast cancer. I was heartbroken, scared, worried for my friend, I wanted to help her in anyway I could.
The Phoenix Half Marathon was my next race. It was at the end of February. I modified a racing singlet that supported breast cancer to read “I run for my ZTA sister MJ”.
The day before the race a friend had asked for people to do an activprayer for MJ, dedicating your workout to MJ. Since we had known each other since 1998, my part was 98 reps of anything. The day before the race, me and my running friends ran 1.98 miles and did 98 pushups for my friend MJ. People all around the country posted their pictures of their activprayer for MJ, this is where #StrongforMJ came from and just stuck.
The night before that race (half mary #3) I was in the hotel room with my friends and I was completely overcome with emotion and broke down for my dear friend. I sat outside on the stairs as I cried thinking how strong and brave my friend is and all I can do is run for her, since she had been unable to run on her own. I was extremely emotional for this race, I had been battling injury and had a heavy heart. With MJ on my mind, I PR’d that race and I knew it was with help from Monica.
Since the Phoenix race, Monica started her treatment, 12 weeks of treatments and sported her bald head like a champ. I would visit MJ in her home in between treatments, the laughter still resonated but just for different reasons. I told her “you know, no matter how much time passes between when I see you, I will always be there for you as I know you will always be there for me”.
She had a small break from her treatments and then needed to go into surgery. The day after her surgery it was encouraging to hear the surgeon talk about how well the operation went. A week later she got the results of the pathology from the surgery and amazing news, no cancer cells detected. I couldn’t have been happier, what a relief, it was working.
This weekend was the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure, it is also Zeta Tau Alpha‘s national philanthropy. In honor of our sisters who battled breast cancer, and in support of Monica, we created a great team. Our race day singlets made it clear who we were running for, they all read “#StrongForMJ” on the front and “She’s a fighter” down the back. It was powerful time that included Zeta sisters and my running group, Albuquerque Sole Sisters. Before the race, our team just kept growing and growing. I was taken back by the support and I know Monica was too. People who didn’t even know MJ showed up to support her.
As I put on the shirt for Susan G Komen, made in her honor, I text her…
Jenn: As I put on my shirt this am I felt like super woman…nothing compared to the super woman that you are…I love you so much my friend
MJ: Thanks for making me cry already buddy! Love you