Running for Nana began as a way to celebrate our beautiful Nana and fight back against C. difficile, the infection that ultimately took her life. She will always be the reason I’m running, and I’d love to share a bit about her with you.
The beautiful woman you see in the photo is my Nana (Joan) – this photo was taken in August 2014 on her 83rd birthday.
She grew up in the Great Depression on a small farm in Minerva, OH, where she lived with her mom, brother and grandfather. They lived without electricity until she was 6 and without indoor plumbing until after she graduated high school. Her grandfather was her hero and best friend. I think their relationship was a big part of why she wanted to be close to her own grandkids – my sister Abbe and myself.
Shortly before Abbe was born, she packed up her life and bravely moved to Colorado from Ohio. Joan became “Nana” and our closest friend and companion. She took care of us while our parents were at work, and if you asked her, she’d tell you this was “the BEST job” she ever had. Through phone calls, sleepovers at her house, and a myriad of concerts, holidays, and events, we had the immense privilege to spend almost every day with her in some way.
She and our mom, Kim, were the best of friends, and she always wanted to be wherever “her girls” were. When Abbe and I went to college in Minnesota, she learned how to text, email, and work the computer (and an iPad!) to keep in touch, and made several trips to Minnesota as well. She kept up with her friends and family through frequent phone calls, letters, weekly hair appointments, and lunch dates. She enjoyed watching musicals, mystery shows, and Lawrence Welk, and was an avid lover of sports cars.
In January 2015, Nana was diagnosed with lung cancer. She began chemo and (later) radiation at the age of 83 – she wasn’t about to let cancer get in her way. The treatment and side effects were very physically and mentally challenging, but yet she was never too tired to chat about life or make time for a good movie.
In May 2015, in the midst of her cancer treatment, she contracted the C. difficile infection, which causes symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon. In the year 2011, almost half a million people were diagnosed with C. diff, and it was associated with 29,000 deaths in that year alone.
Over the next three months, Nana showed immense strength and courage as she rallied time and again to beat this awful infection. After an incredible fight, we lost our beautiful Nana on August 17, 2015.
She spent her life caring for the people that she loved, and in so doing, taught us how to love one other. It’s with immense gratitude that we miss her everyday, knowing that we will always learn new lessons from her stories, laughter, and life.
In early 2015, after telling her that I felt like I was waiting for my life to begin, Nana looked at me, shook her head and said, “You can’t wait”. I’ve been hitting the road to take her advice ever since.
Here’s to you, Nan – I love you more!