Whether or not you pay attention to running in general, you probably know something about the Boston Marathon. This is not a race that you just register for, show up on race day, and collect your beer at the end. This is a race that draws elite athletes from all over the world, celebrities, and athletes from countless other walks of life.
The minimum qualifying standards for Boston are beyond my natural athletic abilities, but like thousands of others, I too want to run across that finish line – even at my own, more moderate pace.
This year, I decided to apply for an invitational bib. After looking through all of the charity partners on the B.A.A. website, I selected a couple and applied. The American Liver Foundation was one that I applied to, and they accepted me.
That is technically why I’m running this year.
Why did they decide to offer one of those precious invitational bibs to me? Here’s my connection:
My father’s father died of liver cancer as a result of hemochromatosis, a relatively rare hereditary condition most common among people from NW Germany and their descendants.
Hemochromatosis causes the body to retain more iron than it needs, storing it first in the skin (causing a characteristic darkening of the victim’s complexion), then in the internal organs, especially the pancreas (causing diabetes) and the liver (causing cirrhosis and cancer). Until recently, the disease was not well-known and often went undiagnosed.
My grandfather developed darker skin in his early 40’s, started insulin treatments for diabetes when he was 46, and was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer when he was 60. He died 4 months later. When doctors looked back over his medical history at that time, they could see that he had been suffering from hemochromatosis all along.
I was only 2 when my grandfather died.
I learned later that my father and his brothers were told about the diagnosis, warned that they could also inherit the disease, and advised to take precautions, including regular phlebotomies (bleedings) to prevent an accumulation of iron in their bodies. At the time (1976), there was no test to determine whether a person had inherited the disease, and for several years my father had to continue bi-monthly phlebotomies and to have a liver biopsy every 5 years to check on whether his liver was accumulating iron. A test for the disease was finally developed about a decade ago, and my father was told that he did not have hemochromatosis.
I also had myself tested for hemochromatosis. I was told that I do not have the disease, but am a carrier for it, and will need to educate my own children about their chances of inheriting the disease.
So, that is why I’m privileged enough to have obtained a bib for this prestigious marathon.
Please consider a donation to my run. I have committed to raising $5,000 for the American Liver Foundation. I have two weeks to raise the remaining $1600.