Saturday, January 20, 2007

saturday (part 2): why i run

i took a deep breath and stood up in front of my friends, teammates and coaches.

"hi, i'm jen...affectionately known as ms bum." (laugh)

before i start writing about what i said, i'm going to tell you now that it was a blur of run-on sentences and maybe even incomplete thoughts. and i will probably add a few things here and there that i did not say, but meant to, and need to now.

"so, you heard demps talk a little bit about why i am running. i am running in memory of my friend steve bouvier. we called him bouv. i met bouv in 7th grade, in science class. he was the nicest guy we all knew. he was always smiling. growing up, it was always steve and the girls - he was the only guy that was allowed to hang out with all the girls. bouv was the guy that you were always keeping an eye-out for a good girl to set him up with (until he snagged jeanne). we were friends through high school and college, through break-ups and living in different states. bouv always had your back. he had the thickest massachusetts accent of all our friends - there was nothing like going for "beahs" with bouvier. he loved skiing, and vermont, and his family, and chemistry, and jeanne, and also us brimfield girls.

when bouv was diagnosed with hodgkin's he was optimistic. he showed no fear. he told us all that it was "the kinda cancer you want to get if you get cancer". the survival rates were high. his calm way of talking about it put the rest of us at ease. we all knew he was going to beat it.

through the years, bouv's disease seemed be on a roller coaster. he'd get better and then he'd get sick again. throughout, he never seemed down about it. over thanksgiving and christmas breaks, he'd play designated driver and we'd hit the local bar as we always had. he had a few bone marrow transplants, and they seemed to help, but he never got completely better. i had moved to new york, and so at those periods that he'd have to go in the hospital for treatments, i never saw him. i only ever saw the healthy bouv.

bouv met a girl named jeanne. and she was fantastic, and we were all happy that he had found such a wonderful girl. they fell in love. and before one of his more experimental treatments, they got married in vermont, in a little ceremony with just their families. we got the pictures and he looked so happy. the hodgkin's could not wipe the signature bouv-grin off his face.

last year, in early october, a few days before i was taking off for a three-day charity bike ride, we got an e-mail from jeanne. steve was really sick again, and his body could not handle any more chemo. he and jeanne and his family decided that bouv would go into hospice. i confess, i didn't know what hospice was. when i asked a friend at work, they said that hospice is not about getting better, it's about managing pain.

i was bewildered and shocked. how could...but he wasn't that sick...but not bouv. in two days i had to on the bike ride, and was so scared that i was not going to make it to massachusetts to see him, before...i couldn't even say it. i got a friend to scan a picture of bouv and the brimfield girls - it was his favorite - a photo that he would take with him to the hospital when he got treatment, and throughout that ride, i kept that photo close, making that ride for him, drawing on the strength he had to keep going.

the following weekend, i decided to go up to massachusetts on sunday to see bouv. when i went into the living room, i'm not sure that my face hid what i felt. he simply looked so much older than the last time i saw him. too old for his years. i sat in his living room with jeanne and his family, and we talked, catching up. he was on a lot of pain meds, patches and such, that jeanne lovingly and handled with a quiet strength that i'm not sure that i possess.

before i knew it, it was time for me to catch a train. i went over and hugged bouv and said goodbye, and said "i'll see you next week, okay?" and his reply was a firm "definitely." i didn't cry until i got in the car.

a few days later steve died. i've never talked about this before, but after feeling the sorrow, for steve, for jeanne, for his family...the next worst thing was the guilt. i should have been there more often. visited. why didn't i realize? i wasn't a good friend, how did i not know this was going to happen and spent more time with bouv.

and so, almost a year later, when i decided it was time to do some new charity activity, i wanted to do something for the leukemia & lymphoma society. i came to a tnt info meeting looking for a bike ride. and as i sat there, sad and inspired and wanting to do *something*, looking at the bike rides and thinking...they're too short (they were "only" day rides of 100 miles)...a flicker of insanity sparked. a marathon? no way. there's no way i can. but then i couldn't let it go, because i knew if i had it in me to do this, if i did, i could probably only do it for a damn good reason. and doing it for bouv seemed like a damn good reason.

that's how i signed up with the rest of you crazy people, to run a marathon. but beyond running, what you've given me, what these last months have given me, was a way to heal a little bit. it means so much. and not just to me. to bouv's family. to so many other people. i've raised a lot of money, no doubt, but what is more amazing to me is that over 120 people have been a part of this, have gotten to do something in memory for someone that we loved so much.

we're going to run a marathon tomorrow. and i know that i can do it. i know that you can too. so thank you. thank you for being here, and training with me, for helping me do something for my friend. thank you demps & charlotte & drew for doing this with me. thank you bouv."

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