Snakes and cancer. Just the mention of these two words has sent chills up my spine for as long as I can remember. They always have been my two greatest fears in life.
Unathletic is another word that could provoke fear in me. I grew up always one of the very last to be chosen on the school teams, believing I didn't have an athletic bone in my body.
In 1998, my life changed. I don't think I ever will know exactly what possessed me to sign up to train for my first marathon, but before I knew it, I had trained five days a week for six long, grueling months. The day I completed the 26.2 miles at the Dallas White Rock Marathon and crossed the finish line was the day I began to comprehend that anything, absolutely anything, is possible in life. It simply is a matter of working diligently toward a goal and believing in one's own capabilities. At that defining moment in my life, I realized that the only limitations we carry are those we place on ourselves.
Two years later, after conquering my fear of athletic ridicule and failure, I came face-to-face with my greatest fear of all: cancer.
Four days into the new millennium, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was shocked, as I had just completed my second race, the New York City Marathon, and never had felt stronger. My greatest fear was staring me down. It was the one thing in life I was completely convinced I could not possibly have the strength or courage to endure.
I was wrong. As my nine-month journey with cancer unfolded, my life took on a clarity I had never known. I was forced to discover what is required to face one's fears. It all comes down to living one day at a time, one challenge at a time, one step at a time. It's not much different from training for a marathon.
But the most profound lesson I learned in my battle with cancer was this: We all have strength and perseverance far greater than we can imagine. We can conquer anything through God's sovereignty and with the love and support of family and friends. I never had felt closer to God, for he sustained me during my darkest hours. And those at the core of my life carried me through the tumultuous waters each day of my journey until I landed safely on solid ground once more. Looking back, I can testify that the blessings I received during that turbulent period in my life outweighed the pain.
I completed chemotherapy and radiation in September 2001. Three months later, I crossed the finish line at the White Rock Marathon again. I knew I had just won the race of my life. Victory never was sweeter, for I had a second chance at life. This time around, I vowed never again to let my fears get in the way of my goals and dreams. Just bring on the snakes!
Life is fragile and uncertain. When put to the test, each of us is capable of unlimited potential, unshakable faith and extraordinary resolve to face whatever life may bring.
I am living proof.
Runge is a 1981 Baylor graduate with a BA in journalism. She is the West regional senior specialist in employee communications for Southwest Airlines in Dallas. Runge ran in Waco's first two Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure events, which benefit breast cancer research.