Sitting with Grandpa Herb

from Aspirations of a BA Steeplechasin’ Woman

I’ve spent most of my waking hours over the past two weeks in my grandparent’s condo in downtown Minneapolis. My grandpa, Herb was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer two and a half years ago. He didn’t choose to have any treatment since doing so would, at its best, delayed his death a bit. Instead of going through painful treatments, he has lived the last couple years as he has lived most of his life, just at a little slower pace. I greatly admire how both my grandparents reacted to news of the cancer; heartbroken, I’m sure, but also determined to make the most out of the time my grandpa has left. About a month ago, Grandpa’s health started to seriously decline, and Grandpa started hospice care at home.

One of my favorite memories of spending time with my grandparents after grandpa’s diagnosis was when he and my grandma were able to travel to Des Moines in 2013 to watch me place 4th in the steeplechase the USA Outdoor Championship Meet. I was devastated to have barely missed qualifying for the World Championship, but I was proud of having gutted out a tough race that made my grandparents proud.

As I told my grandpa, I am grateful he has been supportive of my athletic career and especially my running. I have always appreciated his inquisitiveness about my training and racing and his lack of questions about getting a real job, getting married, and having babies. Whether or not I make the Olympic team this spring, I appreciate his encouragement of my dreams.

Many of my friends have had to go through the agony of watching a loved one die of cancer. Few are fortunate enough to have lives that allow them to drop everything and spend quality with their loved one near the end of their life. Getting the opportunity to support my grandpa is yet another reason I am thankful I have pursued professional running. I have had difficulty concentrating while engaged in long, hard hours of training, but I’m lucky I can get my work done just about anywhere.

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