Monday, July 19, 2010

What Can Happen in Five Years? by Mallory Chandler

I've always heard the saying that a lot can happen in five years. So I started thinking, what all can happen in five years? Well, it takes nine months for a baby to be born. You can start and finish college; well at least that's the theory anyway. In my case, you can graduate from college, move to a new city, train for and complete two half-marathons and a marathon with Team In Training. Oh yeah and be in the middle of training for your second marathon. It seems like I've done a lot in those five years and to be honest, I'm not sure where the time has gone. However, in five years, I still have not learned how to come to grips with losing a friend to a blood cancer.

You see, I recently celebrated my seventh year off chemo anniversary in April. While going through chemo, I met a lot of kids who were also fighting the terrible c-word. One of the people that I met who was also battling cancer, Todd, ended up becoming my best friend. I met Todd when I was fifteen and he was sixteen. He was diagnosed in May of 2000 and I was diagnosed in September of 2000. We both had ALL (acute lymphocytic leukemia). As Forest Gump would say, we went together like peas and carrots. We were completely opposite but yet, it worked. I was always really feisty (and still am); Todd was more laid back and would roll with the punches. I was an athlete and he was in the band. I was (and still am) an Ole Miss fan; he was an Auburn fan (which in the state of Alabama, things like that can make or break a friendship). The one main thing we had in common was that we each needed a friend, someone who knew what the other was going through and would take each other’s mind off of the reality of what was happening. You see, we didn't need sympathy, we needed normalcy and we provided that for each other.

It took us each about three years to finish chemo. I completed my chemo regiment before graduating high school, but Todd had to enter his freshman year at Auburn still on treatments. I finished with relatively few setbacks. Todd had a harder time. I was lucky enough to have never relapsed. Todd relapsed and needed a bone marrow transplant. He traveled to Boston for his transplant and I remember being a freshman in college and spending my weekends talking to him over the computer so he could have some company, so-to-speak. I remember one Saturday in particular, we talked for twelve straight hours, with only a few breaks to go to the bathroom or get something to eat. Needless to say, he was my best friend and I loved him dearly.

After he finished his transplant, he was allowed to come back to Alabama and start his sophomore year of college. He had decided to transfer to a school closer to his Alabama doctors, so he chose to enroll at Samford University in Birmingham. I was really excited about this, because I too was going to be a sophomore at Samford. That summer, I had to decide to stay at Samford or transfer to another school. I made the painful decision to transfer, but I knew that one day, the stars would finally align and we would find our way back to each other. Todd stayed right on track though and enrolled for the Fall 2004 semester. At least he was right on track until he hit another detour. A few months into the semester, he relapsed for the second time. This was not a good thing. The leukemia started showing up all over his body, not just his blood. I saw him a couple of times during this go-round and we would talk periodically. I just knew he was going to be OK. He would bounce back just like he did the previous two times.

Unfortunately, five years ago today, July 19th, Todd passed away. To say that I was devastated was an understatement. How could this happen? We were Mal and Todd, The Dynamic Chemo Duo. We were supposed to grow old together and conquer the world, because if we could conquer cancer, then the only thing left was the world. But I guess it wasn't in the cards for us. I had to learn a hard lesson in life, that sometimes things don’t go the way you plan.

Sometimes I catch myself wondering what could have been and how different the past five years would have been if he were still around. Last Wednesday, I really started thinking about how much I missed him. I called my mom and she told me the one thing I needed to hear. She told me that Todd would be mad at me for being sad and dwelling on it. And she's right. He would've wanted me to take that pain and sadness and turn it in to something good. I have finally started to realize that just because Todd's not here to conquer the world with me, I can still conquer it. People who find out that I run half-marathons and marathons ask me why I run. I usually tell them that I run because I can. What I should probably say is that I run because Todd can't, but more importantly, because I can and that's what he would want me to do.

Mallory Chandler celebrated her seventh year anniversary as a survivor at the 2010 Country Music Marathon. She is now set to do the 2010 Chicago Marathon with Team In Training. Mallory, thank you for continuing to inspire us all! You, Todd and so many others are why we do what we do.

No comments:

Post a Comment