Woman Who Lost Leg to Rare Cancer on Track to Complete 102 Marathons in 102 Days
You’ll notice that rather than sit around indefinitely feeling sorry for herself, sliding into resentment, bitterness, spending every day griping, complaining about her situation, or blaming God (or whatever circumstance outside of herself) for her ordeal, or rather than trying to get attention via wanting others to endlessly pity her, she eventually decided to go on and live life – she enjoys running now.
Every one has bad things happen to them in life, and when those bad things happen, we do need to permit ourselves some time to grieve and feel anger about those things, but at some point, whether you sit in self pity and hold a victim mentality, or go forward to enjoy life in spite of that bad thing that happened, is a choice you make.
And nobody can force you into it.
April 15, 2022
BOSTON — Jacky Hunt-Broersma runs like a woman possessed. And in a way, she is: The amputee athlete is trying to run at least 102 marathons in 102 days.
Last month, a little more than two-thirds toward her goal of setting a new world record for back-to-back marathons, the South Africa native posted something on Twitter that got people talking.
“The first thing I did after my run today was take off my leg. Felt so good,” she tweeted. “Marathon 69 done. 31 marathons to go.”
…All on a carbon-fiber blade that’s been her left leg ever since she lost the real thing below the knee to a rare cancer.
“You make peace with pain,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I think my pain threshold is probably quite high at the moment. It’s one step at a time.”
…In 2001, while she and her Dutch husband were living in the Netherlands, Hunt-Broersma was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare cancer more typically seen in children. Overnight, a golf ball-sized bulge appeared on an old scar that had become tender. A biopsy confirmed the worst, and within weeks, her leg was amputated below the knee.
“The biggest struggle was accepting that part of my body was gone,” she said. (She’s since made peace with that: A favorite T-shirt reads, “A Zombie Chewed It Off.”)
…Until five years ago, she wasn’t at all athletic, but getting started was expensive. Carbon-fiber blades designed for running cost around $10,000 and aren’t covered by health insurance. Survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three spectators and wounded 260 others, ran into the same problem when they sought to reclaim their lives.
“Running really changed my life,” she said. “It helped me accept myself as an amputee. It gave me a sense of freedom. I fell in love with the process of pushing my body further just to see what I could do.”
… Subsequent marathons led to ultrarunning over extended distances, including a 100-mile (160-kilometer) race.
She worried her stump would become raw and painful, and the first two weeks were rough. Since then, though, she’s gotten into a sustainable rhythm, taking care to ice and massage the stump. When it became swollen, she switched to a running prosthesis with a little more room.
But there have been mental challenges as well on the road to 102, which began on Jan. 17. On a recent outing, Hunt-Broersma — who’s been averaging a little over five hours per marathon — felt near collapse at 15 miles (24 kilometers) and burst into tears. Suddenly the entire odyssey was in doubt.
“I had a total emotional breakdown. I was like, ‘I just can’t do this. What was I thinking?’” she said. “The trick for me is just to break it down into little goals. Just get to the next mile. And then the next one.”
Her support team is her husband and their two young children, but she’s also gained a large social media following.
This week, after logging marathon No. 85, well-wishers offered virtual applause. “You just seem to eat marathons for breakfast,” one person tweeted. “In such bleak times, thank you for serving as an inspiration,” commented another.
As she nears the end of her epic quest, Hunt-Broersma hopes she inspires a singular thought in others, regardless of their own physical challenges:
“You’re stronger than you think — and you’re capable of so much more.”
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