I discovered running the same time I discovered cancer. To most people a brush with squamous cell carcinoma is not a big deal. However, for a pilot it has the potential to end a career if not handled correctly. Fortunately, a routine dermatologist screening provided a life changing perspective on life and the subsequent treatment allowed me to continue flying.

Once diagnosed a host of questions plagued my brain on a daily basis – Has the cancer spread? Is it because of my exposure flying? Is it my vegetarian diet? Is it my age? What will happen to my children if I die? What if I have to take time off of work for treatment? What if I lose my medical for flying and unable to make money? What if it comes back? How am I going to minimize my risk for a recurrence?

A drastic change needed to take place to get me back to a better state of health. I’ve never been out of shape but had definitely let my cardiovascular system slide over years working at the airlines. It is often difficult to find time to workout due to erratic schedules, delays, and commuting to and from work. Eating is a challenge also. Food is expensive at airports and often limited food options at hotels annihilate even the most disciplined intentions. Being a vegan exponentially increases the difficulty. However, once the commitment was made to better my life, I began finding new ways to pack food to benefit both myself and the environment.

A week before the dermatologist appointment I had attempted running, at age 38, never having had run more than 1/4 mile. A treadmill graced my family room for years serving solely as a clothing rack. Using the treadmill was the obvious choice but I could only run for about 3 minutes at 3.4 mph. Body aching, lungs burning, almost every moment being encompassed by perplexing thoughts of how and why people make a conscious decision to run for fun. This seemed more tortuous than relaxing. How could I make running exciting and be compelled to do it on a regular basis?

I wanted to include family members in a positive lifestyle change so I registered us for a 5K color run in Cleveland. This was a huge motivator prompting the search for a training plan and running shoes. Couch to 5K and Brooks Adrenaline were my choice. Everyday I ran it was a struggle but the completion of each run fueled the motivation. However, I had my limits and would not run in the rain, snow, or cold. Making this commitment while traveling took a lot of discipline and many days it was not present but consistency was the name of the game — or so I had been told by RunnersWorld articles.

My 5K race pace was 12:45 minutes per mile with walking intervals…. S-L-O-W… I was embarrassed by the pace and was convinced others were laughing or passing judgment as I slogged past but it didn’t matter because I was running and I worked hard to get this far. Once I completed the race I was hooked and knew there was no turning back. Running has become therapeutic emotionally and physically while forging courses intended to inspire, assist and motivate others.