Written by Tammy and Jackson Lowry
I learned about the Isabella Santos Foundation about 3 years ago. Because I work in the media marketing industry, somehow the video we just watched landed in my lap. I hit play . . . and then I was ugly crying in my office at work, blowing through a box of Kleenex, and was very moved by the video and organization.
Next thing I knew, one of my very dear friends – Jaymie Nielsen – posted on FaceBook that even though she was not a runner, she was going to join Isabella’s Dream Team and train with a group of people to run a half marathon.
Upon inquiring about the Dream Team, I found out that an amazing person, Coach Tom, started the Dream Team and coaches everyone through the training. We all have a training schedule that we do on our own throughout the week. Then, we come together on Saturday mornings, run as a group and raise money along the way. So, I joined the summer of 2015.
The training starts in July, and we are all training for a half marathon that falls in November. There are a few different regional races to choose from. We were about 3 weeks away from the Charlotte Half Marathon, and life threw me a curve ball. My son, Jackson, was admitted to the hospital and was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I thought – it’s just diabetes, right? Don’t you just take a pill and manage what you eat? It is going to be fine. But I clearly didn’t understand the diagnosis. I had to get up with him at midnight and 3am every night for the first few months in order to make sure his blood sugar didn’t go too high or too low. Otherwise, he would go in to a coma.
I was exhausted. I had to swallow my pride and email Coach Tom, Erin Santos and Jaymie Nielsen to tell them I just couldn’t run the race that year. I had no energy and Jackson needed me. Of course they understood.
Erin said she’d run for me – even though she’d already completed her own half marathon for the season. I thought YES – she is going to make me look GREAT. She is a great runner. She will get a much better time than I will. But in all honesty, I was just relieved someone could use the race bib.
The morning of the race, I saw a picture on FaceBook. Erin wrote on one arm “Isabella” and she wrote on the other arm “Jackson”. I started to cry. This race was not about Jackson. It was all about Isabella and helping find a cure for pediatric cancer.
This generous gesture was very touching to me. That was it. I am all in. I will do all that I can to help the Isabella Santos Foundation.
I wasn’t the only one who was all in . . . . Jackson was very moved and inspired. He asked me if he was old enough to run on the Dream Team. Even though he is diabetic, he still knew he could manage it and run for Isabella.
So our team welcomed Jackson at the age of 12 with open arms and we trained the summer of 2016. And after the first group run, he was hooked. He got it. And while I encouraged him at every run, the mom in me still had a nagging concern in the back of my mind – will he be able to run 13.1 miles? With diabetes?
The night before the race, Jackson and I were preparing for the race. We decided to agree upon some ground rules . . . .
-Stay together. If one of us needs to slow down, then tell the other and slow down.
-Run the entire time. Don’t stop.
-Get a drink of water at every water stop.
-Every 3 miles, eat some energy beans.
“My mom and I were doing great. I could tell she was struggling a little bit, but we followed all of our rules. When we hit the 10 mile mark of the race, I started to slowly pull away from her. I was excited and having a great time. I ended up sprinting the last 3 miles of the race, and I finished 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 9 minutes. It was the most amazing feeling to cross that finish line.”
I, on the other hand, had one of the worst races ever. I had a terrible cramp in my feet and toes. But I was determined to not stop and to follow our rules.
Even though I was in a lot of pain at the end of the race, we did it. It is one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had . . . and I got to do it with my son!
If you are a runner . . . . or want to be a runner . . . or want to be inspired . . . or simply volunteer or make a donation, I encourage you to do so with the Isabella Santos Foundation. You will not regret it. I promise.
When you are a parent and you watch your child be diagnosed with any illness or disease – – you do all that you can to fight and find a cure. The Isabella Santos Foundation does just that for all children with neuroblastoma and other rare pediatric cancers.