Looking for the Finish Line

This piece was originally posted by Kristy Westrom on the CaringBridge page for her son, Liam, who was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in May 2018.

You know that feeling when you’re so exhausted that you just don’t know if you have it in you to keep going... but you do it anyway? There are a few times that I have truly felt like this, but I feel it intensely right now.

I ran my first half marathon a few weeks before I became pregnant with Liam. I had run other races before, including a couple 10 miles, but this race felt like a really big deal. I had trained for it, but kept my pace a little on the slow side. Stan was somewhere in the distance cheering me on, there were dozens of people on the sidelines with encouraging signs, and several volunteers were there passing out water and energy gels. Other runners continuously passed me as I continued at my comfortable pace, and my friend who signed up with me ran ahead of me pretty early on in the race.

The first several miles were a breeze. My pace was slow, but I kept up with the pace runner for my goal time. Towards the end, I began to lose steam. I mistakenly walked a bit, which slowed me down even more. I kept going... and going... and going... and I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to finish at the pace I had hoped for. This race, like many, had a maximum time limit to finish. At one point, my goal was just to finish in that allotted time. My feet were hurting and I tried to squeeze out side aches with my hands. I kept going, but I was highly considering walking the rest of it. When would I get to that last mile?

That feeling – being so exhausted that I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish – that's what the last ten months have been like for us. Stan and I are so exhausted that we constantly question how we can keep doing this. We're overwhelmed with decisions, worry, and grief. We know that last mile marker is ahead, but it feels so far away and we have so many questions. When will we see it? Is it still there? What if something happens within that last mile? Is that a hill? I know it’s a long race, but why did so many people go home already? We didn’t train for this course. We definitely trained for the wrong course.

I finished the race that day. I distinctly remember getting to that last mile marker and realizing that I was almost there. I was exhausted and my body was dragging. Everything hurt and my pace slowed down drastically. When I saw that final sign, I burst into tears. I made it. I had worked so hard for this and I was actually going to do it. My pace suddenly picked up and I finished that race in no time. When I crossed that finish line, I was shaking with excitement and was so glad to finally be done. I definitely didn’t break any records that day, but I finished.

 As parents, you always worry about keeping your kids safe. As a parent with anxiety, you often worry about everything that could go wrong. When one of the worst things actually happens to your child, your world is flipped upside down and you are constantly trying to catch your breath. This is the absolute hardest thing that Stan and I have ever gone through. There are so many unknowns for Liam and we have zero control of any of it. Our pace may have slowed down a bit, but we are still so far from the finish line. Thank you for continuing to cheer us on.

Written by Kristy Westrom 
Kristy is a former teacher and mom to two children, Liam and Isla. Liam was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in May 2018. Kristy and her husband, Stan, live in Chaska, Minnesota. They look forward to intense treatments slowing down for Liam so they can resume family activities, like going up to the cabin. Read more about Liam’s story here. 

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