I ran the Race for the Cure the first Saturday this month. It was the 20th Race for the Cure here in Charlotte. And, this was my 15th year!
I started running it my first year as a resident when I moved to Charlotte. As a resident, I had encountered few patients with breast cancer. I had a veritable plethora of book knowledge concerning prevalence and screening for the disease. But, I didn't have personal experience with patients.
I'd heard it was a great running event for Charlotte and once I had experienced it, I couldn't stop! As I finished residency and started practice, the race grew for me in meaning and impact. The race honors survivors by giving them a pink shirt. It's always pink. And as you run, in this sea of pink shirts, pink wigs, and pink tutus, you see sentiments on many runners’ backs. Sometimes pictures of lost loved ones. Sometimes capes of superhero survivors. Sometimes quilts of fond memories. Every remembrance has a story. "I'm running this for my mom." "I'm running this for my sister." "I'm running this for me." Sometimes I talk on the run with my kids, who often run it along with me. Sometimes I drag along my poor nanny to run it with me. Last week, I talked my current 23-year-old nanny into running it with me. (I felt pretty good when she told me after the race that I had kicked her butt!)
This time, however, I didn't spend a lot of time talking. I spent more time thinking. I was flooded with memories of patients and their stories. I thought about my patient who is undergoing chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer. I haven't seen her in a while, but I'm continuing to get updates from her oncologists. She was diagnosed at 28 years old because she found a lump. I harp on asking patients to do self-breast exams, but my compliance rate is hit or miss. This patient was nowhere near old enough to have a mammogram. Furthermore, she had no family history of breast cancer. I would never have suggested that she get a mammogram. But, she came in with a lump. She's a single mom. She's struggling to work to make ends meet for her family. The chemo is grueling. In every young face and every pink placard, I saw her face and I wondered how she was doing. I knew every pink shirt had a story like hers. Yet, here we were, 20,000 people, out there celebrating life and survival.
As I was reflecting in the pink hue of the runners, I couldn't help but feel the irony of the boarded windows, broken glass fragments, and trash debris in the streets. Less than a week before, downtown Charlotte had been the site of a protest riot. The rioting began when the story broke of another police shooting. Despite the initial narrative on the news, the facts revealed an African-American police officer shot and killed an African-American gentleman who had a gun that he refused to put down. It was a horrible painful situation that should never have happened. But, the narrative in the media about our city and our racial tensions was not the one that I was experiencing in the sea hot pink of people from every race, ethnicity and socio-economic background. The riots got much more press than the road race.
My daughter told me another interesting story that occurred the night of the race riot that never made the news. One of her teachers lives in a neighborhood close to downtown Charlotte that is eclectic in its composition. At 2:30 in the morning, someone from the neighborhood sent out a plea on their neighborhood blog to head uptown and clean up the mess. For several hours, residents from that neighborhood used their own brooms, bags and brawn to "make all things new." That story never made the news.
What did make the news the last two weeks has been more madness. Take the presidential elections. I have not been a fan of either candidate. Joseph de Maistre, a contemporary of the French Revolution, once said that in a democracy, people get the leaders they deserve. In my opinion, our candidates reflect the moral decay of our country. We seem appalled that candidates could make such gross errors in judgement about governmental secrets or the treatment of women, yet Hollywood glorifies treason and sexual exploitation. It's the stuff of blockbuster movies. Ironic, huh?
As if the chaos of human behavior is not enough, evidence of the fall of nature reared its ugly head with hurricane Matthew. I was glued to the TV as images of the massive destruction in the Caribbean and southern United States filled every media portal. Amidst the destruction, I saw droves of volunteers, bringing aid and shuttling stranded homeowners from their rooftops to safety. In the midst of this media barrage, I prepared to speak at a gala to raise money for the organization with whom I have traveled to Haiti to do medical mission work in the last few years.
My talk was centered around hearing the heartbeat of God. As I mulled over the scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, I was stricken with the reality that God's desire is for the whole world to know Him. Health and healing are His desire. (Psalm 67:2). He also "sends people" to minister to others and share the good news of His hope and healing. Joseph, Jonah, John, Jesus were all sent from God. Finally, God calls us to give of our treasures to serve others. He gave his greatest treasure in his own son.
I thought back over of the last few weeks and saw how God reminded me of his heartbeat. The young breast cancer patient I had been thinking of during the race came in to see me this week. I had no idea she was on my schedule and I had the opportunity to pray with her. I got to share with her how she had inspired me on the run. She is in the process of being healed. I thought about the neighbors that God inspired to clean up the mess in our city, and about the young man in Lumberton using his fishing boat to carry others to safety. I have no doubt they serve a God who sent them. And, I thought about the money that was raised in a matter of days for the devastated residents of Haiti. I saw people give sacrificially.
I was reminded that we may live in a messy world, but we who are children of God have a higher calling than the media could ever portray:
"But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." (Peter 2:9)
I want to show the goodness of God to the people in my orbit of influence.
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