Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Running the New York Marathon to Fight ALS

My aunt Fran is living with ALS. Commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The progressive degeneration of these neurons causes the brain to lose the ability to initiate and control muscle movement. 

Fran is a life-long New Yorker, other than the few years she lived in DC for college, which happened to be where and when I was born. This was not only handy for free babysitting, but resulted in us bonding early on. Fran has always felt like a big sister to me, and as I got older, she became a true friend. Growing up, my sister Ali and I spent lots of time with Fran in New York, and one event we always heard about was the New York Marathon. Fran and her friends were loyal supporters, camped out at mile 7 with encouraging cheers and spirit, and no doubt a pitcher of cosmopolitans at their side, for the thousands of runners tromping by. Because of these stories over the years, I have always considered New York to be THE marathon. I started running more seriously after my fellowship in 2012, and tackled my first marathon last fall in Fairbanks with Ali. Running has been an amazing outlet for me for many reasons, and has helped immensely in keeping me refreshed with the challenging work I am doing in hospice and palliative care. 

Ali and I never had the chance to watch the marathon with Fran, but this year are thrilled to run it in her honor, along with our cousin Eric, as part of Team ALS. It is a fund-raising event to help find effective treatments and work toward a cure for this terrible disease, for the thousands of people inflicted with ALS who will never run again themselves. I humbly ask you to consider making a donation in Fran’s honor. 

I very much appreciate your support, and will be thinking of the amazing outpouring I have received along the way. You can be sure we will have a very special toast in your honor at the finish - with Cosmos, of course.  Many thanks!

~ Jenny Blechman is a local runner and hospice doctor at Partners In Care. She and her family have lived in Bend since 2002.