That question, along with my quest for gold at the Santa Clarita Valley Marathon, have been biting at me for the last five years ... until Nov. 8.
That's the day I wasn't scared of my cancer anymore; the day I realized just because bad things have happened to me doesn't mean I still can't do good things; the day everything changed. For the first time in a very long time I felt invincible.
I've spent three weeks trying to find the right words for my run on Nov. 8 and have made absolutely no progress. The truth is that there are no words that could ever describe my five-year climb and how thankful I am to everyone who has been a part of my journey. How could I ever thank all the people, from family to friends to coaches to teammates to fans, for standing by my side all this time? The answer? I can't.
Cancer is a terrible thing, but I don't have to let it make my life terrible. When I received an email last week, asking me to write an open letter to someone recently diagnosed with cancer from the ambassador for Cure Forward, I realized I wanted to make this blog post on my SCV Marathon win the letter to any cancer fighter looking for hope because I'm a cancer fighter and on that day, even though I'm two and half years into my fight and not in full remission yet, I won. Cure Forward is a new organization that looks to help cancer patients understand their disease and access precision medicine treatment options like clinical trials, and they're encouraging advocates to share their story in an open letter to newly diagnosed cancer patients. So here I am, writing to you! If I can do it, why can't you?
You have to realize something important -- It's not going to be easy.
Crossing the finish line first on Nov. 8 was the hardest thing I've ever experienced, and not just the race, but the five years leading up to those two and half hours. There were a lot of miles, hours, and smiles, as well as tears, moments of doubt, and never-ending months of depression.
There were days when I thought it couldn't get any worse, but it did; days I wanted to give up on my running career and life itself, but didn't; days I thought about ending it all, but knew I couldn't because there were so many people who believed in me and loved me so much.
It doesn't have to be bad though. When the days got darker I fought even harder to find the light at the end of the tunnel. I have the biggest support system in the world, which was on display throughout the 26.2-mile course, and now it's my turn to believe in you and support you.
If I learned one thing during my quest for marathon gold on Nov. 8, it's that no matter how hard something gets, fighting back is worth it. Whether you succeed or not isn't entirely up to us, but we do have a choice when it comes to giving cancer one hell of a fight.
Three Sundays ago was the best day of my life by a landslide, not because I finally achieved a five-year goal, but because I got to share it with all the people I loved. If I could make copies of my medal for every individual who's had an impact in my running career and battle with cancer I would, but I can't because there's simply too many people who have made a difference in my life and made me a stronger runner and person.
I would like to take the time to thanks a few people:
To my parents, Joe and Lisa Jauregui, thank you for loving me and for supporting me in every way possible. To my sisters, Brianna, Jenay and Janel, thank you for believing in me when a lot of other people didn't. To the rest of my family, from both sets of grandparents to all my aunts, uncles and cousins, thanks for cheering me on throughout the entire journey. I couldn't have won without all of you.
To my coaches, Rene Paragas and George Serrano, thank you for taking the time to coach me, just to give me a shot at my dreams and goals. To the Saugus Cross Country dynasty, my second family, thank you for for helping me through my fight against cancer and for showing me what true determination, heart and guts are. To my best friends, Amy Haukka, Alex Pearson, Annie Randall, Falco DiGiallonardo, Jessica Volk, Jordan Serrano and Sidney Birmele, thanks for listening to every story, complaint and secret I've ever told you. I'm truly grateful.
To my competitors, thanks for pushing me each and every day. To the SCV Marathon event staff, thanks for making my experience such an incredible one. To the UCLA medical staff, from Dr. Ronald Paquette to the nurses who draw blood from my arm every few weeks, thanks for giving me my best chance at having a successful running career and life. To my fans, thanks for cheering for me throughout my career. And lastly, to God, thanks for blessing me with so many amazing family members and friends.
I'm not sure it's even possible to top my SCV marathon win, but I'll keep training hard because I know my battle against cancer and my comeback in running is inspiring someone out there. This blog post and my triumph on Nov. 8 is dedicated to each and every person who's ever supported me and believed in me when I hit rock bottom. I'd also like to dedicate this post to every individual currently fighting cancer because I know what it's like to feel helpless. It's hard and it really sucks, but there's no reason you can't follow in my foot steps, if not for yourself, for someone else.
There's one moment in my marathon win I remember clearly. It was about halfway into the race when my best friend, Amy, shouted to me, "remember why you're doing this!" Over the last few years I've realized you can't do anything alone. I wanted to win that race for all the people who supported me, and still do, in my running career and battle against cancer. I've also realized cancer can be such an unpredictable and scary aspect of life. I have no idea how long I'll be competing for or how long I'll be here, which is why winning this race was so important to me.
I wanted to share my win at this year's SCV Marathon and my journey against cancer with you in hopes it'll inform and support you in some way. I received a lot of letters and messages when I was in a dark place, and still do when I'm struggling, so now it's my turn. I believe in you, do you?
Brandon Jauregui a.k.a. "Brando"