UPDATE: June 6, 2012
Laura passed away late last night. She was in the hospital in California where she was receiving cancer treatments. She had experienced loss of vision due to brain swelling and bleeding last week. Her vision was gradually improving, but the swelling and bleeding returned yesterday. She slipped into a coma last night, and died a few hours later.
I want to thank everyone who supported Laura’s fight against cancer by donating, sharing her story, or sending thoughts and prayers her way. She fought with every ounce of her being, and with the help of Laura’s Warriors, friends, and family, we know that she submitted herself to every treatment possible.
I can’t but help think of Hamlet:
Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet Laura,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
Laura leaves behind a loving husband, two sweet children, and a family who will always feel this loss. Donations to Laura’s Warriors are still welcome to help ease the cost of Laura’s medical treatments and funeral services.
My cousin Laura Densmore is fighting for her life, and I’m helping her the only way I know—by running.
You can help by donating here.
One year ago on April 26, 2011, Laura found a lump on her inner thigh. Her diagnosis was stage IV terminal clear cell sarcoma, a rare and bleakly lethal form of cancer that attacks the body’s soft tissue including fat, muscle, tendons and ligaments. It is so rare that little more than 300 cases have been diagnosed in the last 40 years, and 10-year survival rates hover below 25 percent. Most doctors and cancer centers have no experience treating it, and conventional cancer treatments often don’t work. One year, 5 surgeries, and 5 rounds of chemotherapy and radiation later, the cancer is still raging throughout Laura’s body.
Every year, my family visited Laura’s family in Florida. We’d spend weeks on end together in the summer, swimming, playing tennis, playing Barbies, going to Disney World, and riding horses on my uncle’s ranch. Like her parents, Laura is an expert horsewoman who has won many rodeo belt buckles and trophies. Barrel racing was her specialty and up until 2010, she kept a horse of her own. As a child, I took English equestrian lessons and Laura would laugh and tease me when I’d show up to ride in breeches instead of Wranglers. She’s always been a jokester with a big sense of humor. But she took me riding with her whenever I wanted, crossing the Florida countryside on horseback. Many times, it was just the two of us. It’s one of my fondest childhood memories. Even though I was 10 and she was 16, she never complained about palling around with my sister and me.
Now 40, she’s married and has two kids of her own—Ava, a tenderhearted 5-year-old girl who loves to play Barbies just like her mama did, and Colton, a 2-and-a-half-year-old linebacker in training. Laura, like all of us, has so much to live for. But she’s also already given so much. Laura has spent her adult life helping save other people’s lives. Before her battle with cancer began, Laura spent 15 years working in a cardiac catheterization lab helping to mend arteries in the hearts of strangers. Now she’s fighting for her own life.
In November of 2011, her doctor gave her just 12 months to live. It’s a sentence that she, nor any of us in her family, is willing to accept. So I’m taking it to the streets quite literally. Between now and November of 2012, I’m going to swim, bike and run 1,000 miles as Laura’s warrior in an effort to help raise money to cover her growing medical expenses. Laura’s family has already relocated from Alabama to Florida for her treatments—with her husband Eric commuting 5 hours each way every week from his job in Alabama to be with his wife and children on the weekends—and now they are facing another move to California so Laura can attend a center that has had success treating advanced clear cell sarcoma—a rarity given how uncommon the cancer is.
When I cross the finish line of the Philadelphia Marathon on November 18, the second of two key races I am targeting as one of Laura’s warriors, my hope is that my cousin will be in remission, one year after doctors gave her just 12 months to live. Leading up to Philly I’m competing in the Long Island Gold Coast Triathlon in June and probably a few other races along the way. With every mile I run, pedal and swim, I’ll be doing it for Laura until I reach 1,000 miles—10 miles for every $100 we initially hope to raise.
Laura recently spoke at a Relay For Life event in Florida organized by the American Cancer Society.
“You have a choice,” she told the crowd. “Accept the doom and gloom knocking at you door and let it in. Or load your shot gun and tell that cancer I am not dying—you are!”
That’s my Laura, always spirited.
“I will never stop fighting for my family, my precious kids and husband. I have already fought harder than I ever thought I could,” she said. “You are not just fighting for yourself, you are fighting for everyone around you and some who are not even here today. We are all making a difference and showing the world that we can beat this thing. United we can move mountains and accomplish great things.”
As runners, we’ve given our miles for so many causes—many of which continue to fight the good fight, researching for better treatments and cures for a multitude of diseases like cancer. Most often, though, we run to save lives in the future. Rarely do we have the chance to directly help someone right here and right now. You have that chance. I have that chance with Laura.
Please join me as one of Laura’s warriors by donating or spreading the word. Even if you can’t donate, please tweet, like, pin, or share this story in any way you can. So many people around the world have lost a loved one to cancer or are fighting for their loved ones too. Together, we really can make a difference in one person’s life and the lives of all the people they’ve touched.
Please visit www.giveforward.com/lauraswarriors to donate or learn more.