Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Wisdom of Seth Jenkins

I wasn't going to blog today.  I woke up late (ha, 4:45) and one word comes to mind to describe my mood this morning... Eeyore.  I'm sure you are all aware of who that is, but if not, he is the melancholy donkey from Winnie the Pooh.  As far as Eeyore is concerned, nothing is ever right and everything is "stupid".  Things never go his way and the world is out to get him.  To be honest, I know people like that.  Not just having that kind of day, but actually having that kind of life.  These people are draining.  They require so much energy from themselves getting through the day and sure as hell zap a lot of energy from those around them.   I don't have that kind of life.  I WAS having that kind of morning.  I turned on my computer to quickly check e-mail.  My intention was to reply to anything pressing (or not) and wake up my over scheduled daughter who had to be forced to bed at 10 pm without having finished her homework.  She begged me to get her up early so she could finish.  What kid does that?  What a nerd!  Anyway, as I scanned down the list of e-mails, I received a forwarded Runner's World "Quote of the Day" from Kathleen and a note that simply read "You are a champion."  Little did she know, I get these quotes and I often forward them on to Sarah. A lot of them are pertinent to her new runners.  Yesterday I saw it and thought of many people I know.  I certainly did not think of myself.  But she did, forwarded it on and lifted my mood.  Here is the quote:

Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it. The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character. 

Thank you, Kathleen.  It never ceases to amaze me that the simple kindness of others can have such huge effects. Really, three words and a forward changed my attitude immediately.

In yesterday's post I described a thirteen year old boy who died of Leukemia.  That boy was Seth Jenkins and was the son of an obstetrician I worked with in Columbus.  Todd (Seth's dad) is an amazing physician and person.  I loved when he was on call and we'd sit around all day chatting.  The man has unmatched compassion and character.  Todd occasionally would bring Seth up to the Labor and Delivery unit while he made his rounds.  I remember Seth as a five year old child, very friendly and outgoing as well as extremely intelligent.  Seth did not seem to know a stranger.  Unlike most five year olds, who tend to hide behind mom's leg when an adult they do not know addresses them, Seth was completely comfortable chatting it up with whomever was around.  Not long after moving back to Cincinnati, I received a phone call from Krista telling me that Seth had been diagnosed with Leukemia.  The news was devastating.  Todd and his wife Wendi had been through quite a bit the years leading up Seth's diagnosis.  They had lost a baby when Wendi was 16 weeks pregnant.  That would have been their fourth child and second boy.  At the time, they had Seth and two younger daughters.  That was also not their first loss.

Through the years, I was able to keep track of Seth's progress and setbacks through Krista.  I did see Todd and Wendi at a Christmas party a couple of years after Seth's diagnosis.  Wendi was getting close to delivering a baby.  This baby was a girl named Maren (can you say stinking ADORABLE!).  I was ecstatic when Krista called to tell me that Seth was in remission a couple of years ago, then devastated again when I received news that he'd relapsed.  In February of 2010, while training for the Flying Pig, I got a very upsetting phone call from Krista.  She told me that "Seth needed prayers... badly".  In early February, Seth was admitted to the hospital for a "severe headache".  After he was admitted, he was sedated for a spinal tap.  He was expected to wake up hours later from the sedation, but never did.  Seth died on March 6th.  Seth had become septic (to this day, I believe the cuprit was bacterial meningitis, but I'm not certain) and without a properly functional immune system, he was unable to fight such a heavy hitter.  During his illness and during his final hospitalization, Todd and Wendi kept a CarePages journal that they updated nearly every day.  I marvel at their willingness to share such raw emotion during Seth's final weeks.  There were entries of hopefulness, explaining lab values and small signs of improvement, as well as entries of despair from a mother watching her child go through such a thing and having three young children at home.  I cannot imagine or relate and when I try, it simply overwhelms me.

One of the things I learned about Seth was that he LOVED sports.  He was extremely competitive and loved all things baseball and basketball.  Quitting was not a word in Seth's vocabulary.  When it came to his illness, at times Seth was frightened with the prospect of dying (what a horrible thing for a child to worry about), but went through all of his treatments with a "let's beat this" attitude.  He never asked "Why me?" or said "It's not fair."  I'm sure his parents have many times.  But as the child with the illness, he did not.  His goal was to beat his cancer... again.

In one journal entry, Wendi describes getting Seth a cell phone.  Many of his Jr. high friends had cell phones.  Seth did not.  He finally wore his mother down, with some help, I believe, from Todd.  On his phone was his "signature", with the words "Courage is NOT the absence of fear."  Nice saying.  Very nice.  Until you REALLY think about what words this boy lived by.  This child was so very scared.  His parents couldn't help.  His friends couldn't help.  You just never know what will happen with cancer.  But he was incredibly courageous.  His faith in God (very big for a young boy), his positive attitude and his fighter and "championship character" gave this boy more courage to plow through his disease than I've ever know anyone to have.  I began to think about my upcoming race.  How scared I was of the self inflicted pressure of qualifying.  I can't tell you how many times during my long training runs and of course, at the start of the marathon, I said those words over and over.  I was afraid, but I would have the courage to try to do what I set out to do.  After all, Seth was a child and Seth had cancer and Seth was courageous.  I would not let fear get in the way of my goal.

My children all have rubber bracelets with those words.  Todd gave me six of them at Seth's funeral.  I wore mine during both the Flying Pig and Columbus marathons.  There are many days I slip that bracelet on.  I often need reminders from Seth of what courage is not.  I have told my kids that it is ok to be afraid.  It is not ok to let that fear paralyze you.  When you don't allow that to happen, you have demonstrated courage.... being afraid, but doing it anyway.  Thank you, Seth, for the gift of your amazing wisdom.


  1. wow, this is my favorite....maybe because it just made me extrmely thankful for the fat squirmy 7 month old cherub that sits in my lap reaching for the keyboard....grat post, for alot of reasons!

  2. OMG....I just reread my post. The fat 7 month old cherub,to whom I refer, has better spelling skills and sentence structure. I hope mom doesn't see this! Anyway, in case you don't speak hillbilly, GREAT post!

  3. Competing with a squirmy boy for the keyboard is an automatic grammar/spelling dispensation...
    Kate, great post.

  4. great post. great way to turn your day around.