Friday, February 19, 2010

Letter to the TEAM by Gretchen Owens

To My Paris Marathon Teammates:

Today is a very special day for me and my family. Many of you know why my Dad and I are involved with TNT…and it all started 21 years ago today.

On February 17, 1989 my sister, Leslie, lost her valiant fight against leukemia. She was only sick 4 short months – diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in October 1988. When she was diagnosed, the doctors gave her a less than 4% chance of surviving. 4%. Pretty bleak odds. After several rounds of chemotherapy here at Piedmont Hospital, the doctors decided she needed more aggressive treatment in the form of a bone marrow transplant. My Mom, Dad, brother and I all got tested to see if were a match. I was secretly hoping and praying that I would be the one. Unfortunately, none of us was an exact match, but my Dad was the closest. At that time, there were no bone marrow databases like there are today. And, only a few hospitals would perform a non-matching transplant. The best hospital was said to be Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. Mom, Dad and Leslie went there for the transplant in late January. After a few weeks of giving platelets and taking care of my sister, my Mom was getting very weak so I went to Seattle so that I could give my platelets. The radiation and chemo that Leslie was given in preparation for the transplant did incredible damage to her body. Things went from bad to worse and about a week after my arrival, Leslie died.

Fast forward 21 years. Today, there are cure rates upwards of 90% and for some even 100%. Bone marrow databases exist and people can be matched with strangers who are an exact match. So much progress has been made! And much of this progress is directly attributable to the funds raised by Team In Training.

I wanted to share this story with you as a reminder that what we do has and does make a difference…and will continue to make a difference until we find a cure. You are all heroes in my book and to those who are fighting leukemia today. It takes a special person to do something for the greater good. And personally, I want to say thank you for being a part of our team. It’s easy to get wrapped up with training, fundraising, and just day to day life and not focus on the reason we all are doing what we do. As you continue to work on your fundraising, don’t forget that EVERY dollar you raise is getting us one step closer to finding a cure. And, as you are running up the hill this weekend on Johnson’s Ferry thinking to yourself…man, this is one tough hill - remember why we do what we do….and that YOU are making a difference. I am so honored to be your Coach and a part of this great team!!

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Gretchen Owens is a long-time Team In Training Georgia Chapter alumnus, mentor and coach. This season she is leading a team to France for the Marathon de Paris. The letter above was sent to her teammates on February 17, 2010. The accompanying photo shows Gretchen at the far right with some of her 2009 Kiawah Marathon teammates. Thank you Gretchen for sharing and reminding us all why we do what we do.

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