Is a picture really worth a thousand words? Any mother can tell you absolutely. A coach knows how true this is too. As a mother and a coach, I’ve been asked to write some of the words behind one picture…
Spring of 6th grade, my daughter Lily asked to run track! We were surprised by her interest because we all knew she’d face unique challenges as a runner with type 1 diabetes. She was sidelined many practices when her blood sugars dropped, but Lily kept hope! As she circled the track at her first meet, Mom didn’t hold back the anxious, yet proud tears. Maybe we could find some hope together!
Fall of 7th grade, Lily wanted to attempt Cross Country that went out further…so Mom began running along behind. I hoped we had enough snacks! Her final meet of the season was her first 5k attempt. We all hoped together and added snacks to dad’s pockets too. Her blood sugars before and after the run dropped only 4 points! Lily’s hope was decided now and our hope was increasing.
The 8th grade Cross Country season brought Lily really learning to juggle running as her PRs (personal records) kept coming. Mom’s running along behind transformed into coaching. Each time Lily succeeded in a run, our hope began to expand nearly into confidence.
9th grade brought a temporary setback when Lily broke her wrist. The elimination of competition made Lily painfully aware of how much she loved to run! Lily made it back for only the last two races, yet her times continued to improve! Lily conditioned harder than ever through the off season as she wanted to make up all she’d missed. We all kept hope and confidence that surely her best running season was still to come.
August of 2019 was supposed to be her 10th grade season, but instead brought an unexpected, second auto-immune diagnosis that left us grappling to find our hope again. In those initial moments, we didn’t have confidence as a diabetic, much less a runner. Now we had to figure out ANCA Vasculitis too. Chemo was necessary. High levels of Prednisone that were risky to a diabetic were necessary. Lily worried about losing her run. We simply wanted the treatments to put this rare disease in remission. A competitive season would definitely not be viable. But as the doctors encouraged that running would still strengthen Lily, she began running between the treatments. She started school virtually and practiced from a 6 ft. distance before either was the new norm. The doctors marveled at Lily’s recovery and management via her daily exercise, regular sleep, and an altered diet maintaining tightly controlled blood sugars. One doctor teased and asked if she was really taking all the prescriptions? So many typical side effects were not visible in Lily. While in treatment, she still achieved her lowest ever AIC (diabetic marker). Her endocrinologist called her a rock star. This just made Lily run harder. We began to report her progress on the trails nearly synonymous with her overall health. By summer, her course was up to almost 8 miles and comments frequently came about the girl running with the big smile. She developed shin splints, so we just added physical therapy to her circle of doctors. Lily was determined to run. Around a year after diagnosis, the words deep remission were included in a checkup, so Lily kept hope that it had all been enough to heal her and let her run competitively again…
11th grade year started with COVID firmly entrenched. Virtual school now continued for everyone. Was there any hope for cross country? Or was Lily about to lose her third season? Our team began practicing mid September to be ready and Lily ran every other workout to not further stress her shins. November 7th was our qualifier race at Asheville Christian Academy. Lily still ran her next PR and her Dad snapped this photo at one of the scenic turns. Our abbreviated season consisted of only 4 races…but Lily began and ended with more PRs! So Lily continues to keep hope. Lily hopes senior year might even still be her most “normal” running season yet.
Lily is still the only runner on our team whose every run has her insulin pump in one hand with her Dexcom and glucose tabs in the other…with more below the surface. She weighs every carb, check, basal, and bolus cautiously…hopeful she will make it across each finish line. When she crosses the finish with any success, Lily has a bit more joy than a healthy runner might ever understand. This is Lily’s story. A story of hope. The photo captures her hope.
The full story behind the photo is that the kind of hope Lily has doesn’t come from herself or from anything of this world. The doctors quickly recognized the joyful disposition of the patient nicknamed “Bubbles!” But everyone has limits. And no doctor can guarantee hope. One doctor specifically warned that Lily would become more like a “normal teen” due to the hard effects of treatment. But after one extra rough night in the hospital, Lily’s exact words were “I will not let “this” make me grumpy!!!” Lily would not leave the hospital till a nurse distributed her balloons to the patients without any. Her one armed crocheting technique in the infusion center brought as much curiosity from doctors and nurses as the patient gifts she left behind. Her father and I frequently call her the most determinedly cheerful person we know. Lily cheerfully chooses to accept that her health requires every good habit being disciplined to the max, even her run. As much as all of those conscious changes helped Lily maintain positive physical health at a critical time, her spiritual health has made the real difference in her continued upbeat attitude! Lily’s hope is described in one of the Bible verses she had read many times before and chose to read again on the eve of her diagnosis. Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.” God was still God in the midst of Lily’s unexpected. Lily could still rest in the truth that God created her just as He intended and with His purposes in mind. I marveled as my daughter shared with many doctors and nurses about this hope. Lily now feels she wants to study nutrition to become a dietician. She has a new and increased hope that she might even get to share some of her hope with other patients on similar tough journeys.
With a limitless hope, Lily is continually being equipped to handle the boundaries of this physical life. Lily’s photo and story is as simple as the eternal Hope she relies on daily…and sometimes her Hope shows up one run at a time