‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint:’ A student’s battle with leukemia

Published: March 28, 2013, 12:24 am ET
Graphic by Francesca Burkhardt

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” is such a common phrase for many of us, whether it’s about your four years in college, trying to lose weight or day drinking. It’s also a concept I’ve never really been successful at grasping. I think this stems from the fact that I’ve played soccer and field hockey all my life and never tried to run any distance longer than a 5K.

The “marathon mentality” is something I’ve always lacked, but my brother has it. Mike is a marathoner. He voluntarily runs 26.2 miles, and he does it well. He qualified for the Boston Marathon! I am not interested in running 26.2 miles, but I do wish I had the same marathon mindset that he has. The “marathon mentality” is useful outside of simply running marathons. It requires patience, endurance and a firm focus on the end result: all traits that are valued on the job, for problem solving or when facing adversity.

I was born with a “sprint mentality.” I am great at making to-do lists, checking off each task quickly and efficiently and shifting my focus to the next task at hand. This short-run focus truly helped get me through the first five weeks of my experience with cancer: from diagnosis to discharge. Each day in the hospital brought a new task and a new focus with a new goal.

However, this next phase, is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. I have four cycles ahead of me. Each cycle/month will be the same routine: a week of chemotherapy, then three weeks without. I’ve heard it’s like getting hit by a bus, and then right as you start to stand up, you get hit by another one. Sounds like a good time to me! What makes me get back up and wait for the next bus is having an understanding of the bigger picture, the end result. By the end of June, my treatments are done, and I will be ready to move forward.

So, the “marathon mentality” is not innate for me, but maybe I can gain part of that mindset over the next few months. Expanding my personality traits and challenging myself might be a good thing. However, I’m still 98% sure that I am not going to suddenly run a marathon.

Megan is a senior at the University of Richmond studying business administration and marketing. She was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in January and is currently taking a leave of absence from school for the semester to complete her treatments. She is in remission and will return to finish her classes this fall. She has been writing a blog to help her document and reflect on her journey with cancer.

Read more of her blog posts at

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