Off to Pittsburgh

Posted: August 18, 2010 in Motivation
Tags: , , ,

As my wife hugged and kissed me goodbye I wheeled my carry-on bag into the Austin International Airport this morning. Exactly two weeks ago we went through this very same routine as I was flying to Charleston, SC to be with my good friend Keith and his boys and to pay my respects to their mother Monica. Monica was 41 years old when she passed, two years younger than I am this morning. Full of life, energy and love for her boys, Keith, family and friends.

Today’s flights will take me to Chicago and then on to Pittsburgh to mourn the loss of my good friend Dom. A childhood friend of my wife Dawn’s – and truly one of the most genuine, loyal, funny and loved people I have ever known. Just 39 years old, 4 years my junior with a lifetime of joy and happiness ahead of him.

In a moment of brutal honesty with myself I will admit that when this all started a little more than a year ago – I had some days when I thought Dom was in for a battle that statistics said would be tough to win. It was because those odds were so long, that I felt something needed to be done for Dom, Val and the kids. Something to help them get through this difficult time and perhaps help with treatment costs or education costs for Sierra and Nico.

A year ago as Run for Dom began and I committed to running both Boston and Pittsburgh just 13 days apart – I was doing it to make a difference, to help the only way that I could as my chances of Medical School waved good-bye to me long ago in Mr. Pendino’s Physics Honors Class in 10th grade.

When I look back at the races, I know that we in fact did do some good. That we were able to share Dom’s story with literally thousands of people who had never had the opportunity to meet Dom. We were able to raise awareness about a horrible, horrible disease. Friendships were forged that will last the rest of our lifetimes and through the generosity of hundreds of donors we were able to raise more than $27,000 for Dom’s family.

That said, I still feel horribly crushed by this loss.

When Dom made it through his major surgery late last fall, his Doctors shared with us great optimism. The surgery had gone so well, they in fact remarked that it in fact had gone better than they could have ever hoped for.

Hindsight being what it is, that was a high-point in Dom’s fight against cancer.

Post surgery, Dom struggled with his nutrition and truly never cleared that hurdle. The pain was so significant that eating and drinking went from uncomfortable, to painful, to excruciating, to impossible over the next 8 months.

Dom began to struggle with simple bodily functions and as the cancer returned, no matter how hard Dom fought, the will of his cancer finally outlasted his body’s ability and will to live.

One thing that I am starting to realize is that in just 39 years Dom made an everlasting imprint on this earth. I know that upon arriving in Pittsburgh I will be absolutely blown away by the people who will turn out to pay their respects for Dominic and his family. Stories will be told and retold of this amazing man, who touched the lives of so many.

Dom was able to motivate this ordinary guy, with ordinary abilities, living an ordinary life to try to do something that not too many would dare try.

Some say extraordinary.

To me, I was just running for my friend.

It was done however, in his honor and his name to celebrate his life. I can say that above all else, I gained a truly valuable perspective from Dom’s life.

It’s not about how long a life that you live.

It is about the kind of life that you live.

So today and tomorrow I am going to spend more time in the air than I will awake on the ground. It’s a sad time right now, perhaps the saddest I’ve experienced in my 43 years. I am going to take these two days to mourn the loss of an amazing person. I will grieve with family and friends, and pay my last respects to Dom.

When I get back to Austin late tomorrow however it is time to get back to living my life in the way that Dom and Monica would if they had the chance. Shame on me if I don’t.

Before packing for this trip I registered for my next marathon. February 20th, 2011 in Austin.

I am going to train my ass off for that race and I am going to absolutely crush it.

Shame on me if I don’t.

  1. onelittlejill says:

    You have a fantastic perspective. Tears cleanse the soul. Allow that when needed.

    One day, Cancer will have it’s ass kicked and you will be able to share with your daughter the part you had in said kicking!

  2. Jodi Higgins says:

    Wow Joe, yet another amazing post and perspective on life. I am sure there will be lots of laughter, smiles, and of course tears over the course of the next two days. Embrace each and every one of those laughs, smiles, and tears. Landry is going to be a very lucky girl. She has an amazing father and an outstanding guardian angel in her Uncle Dom. Through the sadness and the tears these next two days, remember that you make a difference and continue to lead the life that both Dom and Monica would have wanted you to. Each day I am amazed by your compassion, perspective, and heart. Many thoughts and prayers to you during this incredibly difficult time.

  3. Connie says:

    Joe You know every blog you post I have something to say. But I’m sorry I am spent.
    Everytime I wrote to Dom I would tell him “I hope he would feel better today than yesterday. And now he is. No more pain.
    And you know what I always say to you Joe ” YOU ARE A WINNER”

  4. Joe, of course you hoped and half expected Dom to beat the odds. Endurance running is all about asking our bodies to do the impossible and to beat the odds. You excel at doing that very thing. We train so on race day, our bodies will do what they need them to do. A supervisor, who had lost his wife to this dreadful disease, shared that in her death he understood that her body was doing what it needed to do and what she needed of it. It brought him a sense of peace to think of an untimely death in that way. I hope you and all those mourning Dom can find a sense of peace in whatever way makes sense. As you said, he has inspired thousands whom he never got to meet. I am one of those people.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Wow. I do not have the words.

    I just spent some time reading through a few of your posts (found you from you comment on Run Faster Mommy’s blog – and I live in Austin too) and we should all be so lucky to have a friend like you (and a friend like Dom).

    • joerunfordom says:

      Stephanie – Thank you so much for the visit and the message. Always great to meet another Austinite and runner. Heather is absolutely the greatest – I enjoy reading her blog tremendously.

      I hope you stop back again as we are just getting started here. We have a whole lot more fight left in us. Best to you from NW Austin. Joe

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