Running for Stacey
A Journey to the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon with TeamChallenge

I’ve been tossing around ideas on how I should write this little segment since I signed up for TeamChallenge, and I can’t seem to settle on anything. The trouble is I want it to be marvelous. I want it to tug at your heart strings… and maybe even your purse strings. But so far any idea I’ve come up with seems bland. I’m reminded of a creative writing teacher I had in college who handed out poor marks to anyone who wrote too poetically. “Just tell it like it is.” That was her stance. Well Mrs. I Can’t Remember Your Name, I guess that’s what I’ll do.

Much to my surprise, I joined a sorority my freshman year of college. I wasn’t the sorority type. I was a math geek and only moderately attractive. But I was going to an engineering school, where the boys outnumbered the girls 3 – 1. And I hadn’t quite yet figured out how to be friends with boys. So I joined a sorority.

Whether it was fate or mere coincidence, Stacey joined that same sorority. And (thank God) each member was required to live in the sorority house for a minimum of one year. This meant that towards the end of freshman year each of us newbies wrote a name down on a piece of paper. The name of the person we would like to share a room with.

Now I’d like to say that Stacey and I had become the best of friends, or that I was drawn to the twinkle in her eye, but the truth is it went more like this, “So-and-so will probably room with so-and-so…so-and-so will probably get a single…I definitely don’t want to room with so-and-so…so I guess that leaves…Stacey.” And I would be flattering myself if I said that Stacey’s methodology was any different. But somehow, through the process of elimination, we both signed up for a friendship that day.

The rest of college was full of typical college activities…

Too much drinking (I have a picture of this, but decided not to post it.).  And too much studying (I don't have a picture of this, but can assure you it did happen.).

Sorority formals...

And tattoos.

First apartments, first loves, chemistry labs and heart breaks. Together we made it through, degrees in hand and less one appendix on Stacey’s part. From there we boarded a plane to Europe where we took on a diet of wine, cheese and gelato. In one measly month we saw the Coliseum, the Eiffel Tower, the Running of the Bulls (and Dennis Rodman) and the Swiss Alps. We rode the rails, sunbathed on topless beaches, and jumped out of a helicopter. 

I will never forget those days. We were on top of the world and ready to take on the rest of our lives. The possibilities were endless.


Okay, yeah. This Eiffel Tower was in Las Vegas. But you get the idea. (Also, do no overlook how skillfully I tied together this story and the TeamChallenge Rock ‘n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon.)

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after a job with Big Oil brought me out to the San Francisco Bay Area that Stacey’s digestive tract turned against her. And after a series of trips to the emergency room, Stacey was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

The good news is Stacey was able to manage the Crohn’s (for the next little while) with diet and oral meds. She remained healthy enough to meet a wonderful man and get married.

She was also accepted into a Physician’s Assistant program and has been pulling out Aces despite a few setbacks…

Last fall Stacey developed a fistula. Wikipedia (the Way, the Truth and the Light) defines a fistula as, “an abnormal passageway between two epithelium-lined organs or vessels that normally do not connect.” What is an epithelium-lined organ? I don’t have a clue. But I do know that Stacey’s fistula connected her intestines to an abscess that gradually filled with, well, stuff from her intestines.

The remarkable thing is Stacey described herself as lucky. And I suppose she was – relatively. The fistula could have connected her intestines to, say, her uterus. Or some other indisputably important organ. But it didn’t. And that was lucky. So to speak. Practically, it meant that Stacey had a difficult time digesting much of anything throughout the latter part of 2009. She lost an unreasonable amount of weight, and as an infection grew so did her trips to the hospital. By the time the fistula was properly diagnosed, Stacey’s body was too weak to undergo surgery to have it removed. She would have to wait while the infection was treated with antibiotics.

(Cue the violins)

It’s difficult for me to describe the significance of Stacey’s friendship in a few words. It’s made up of all the tiny and seemingly insignificant moments that somehow melded together into a massive conglomeration of trust, acceptance, loyalty and understanding.

But I think I could describe her friendship in one trip. Denver to San Francisco – January 2010.

Stacey made the cross-country trek and followed me around for an entire week leading up to my wedding. Bachelorette parties, family dinners, bridal gown fittings, nail appointments, hair appointments, meetings with the venue, rehearsals, rehearsal dinners and favor making. She did it all.

She did it all on pain meds, with a tube sticking out of her side through which the contents of her abscess drained into a plastic hospital bag strapped to her thigh. A bag we affectionately dubbed, “The Poop Bag.” Every day she cleaned the hole in her side, put on her little sister’s high school jeans and hiked her sick ass up and down the San Franciscan hills with a smile on her face.

Every time I think about it I want to cry. Yes, even now as I write this. In part out of sadness, but mostly out of gratitude that I somehow managed to trick such a remarkable woman into being my friend.

You will be delighted to hear that this story has a happy ending. Stacey went into surgery the Friday after my wedding (while Jason and I lounged on the Costa Rican beach, cocktails in hand) and has recovered marvelously. She has gained back all the weight she lost in the last year, and (like I mentioned earlier) is still excelling in school.

Unfortunately, this won’t be the end of Stacey’s battle against Crohn’s. She will live with it for the rest of her life. But for now we can celebrate this one victory. This one courageous woman. My Stacey.

If you were to ask me if I believed in fate I would probably say no. Yet I still find myself believing that things were “meant to be.” What does that have to do with anything? Great question. Let me explain.

When I started back running a few months ago I naturally started thinking about training for a race. I mean a serious race. Something on the order of 13.1 miles. I always do this. I get excited and I dive in head first. (Figuratively speaking. I’m not much of a swimmer.) And then I burn out halfway through my training. So I was hesitant about taking on too much too soon.

That’s when the TeamChallenge flyer showed up in my goodie bag. The more I thought about it the more it felt like perfect timing. I couldn’t be in a better place mentally to take on a half marathon. And the cause (the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation) meant something to me on a personal level. It was meant to be.

Okay, it’s time…this is the part where I tell you about all the fundraising I need to do and hope Stacey’s story inspired you enough to MAKE A DONATION. Please don’t feel obligated. I understand that there are a million and a half dozen great causes in need of donations, and another half dozen reasons why a donation might not fit into your budget. I understand. If that’s the case, consider helping out by sharing this page on your blog or on Facebook. Or recommending a fundraiser that’s worked for you. Or by simply keeping us in your thoughts. That’s right - I might need as much help as Stacey!