When I ran my first Monumental Half-Marathon three years ago in support of Riley Children's Foundation, I didn't ask myself, "How am I going to finish this?" The question that drove me was, "How could I not?"
I had just turned 18 and was halfway through my senior-year football season at Kokomo's Northwestern High School when I was diagnosed with stage III non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. I spent two years fighting for my life. Even as I began college at Indiana University in 2008, I sometimes had to stop in the parking lot between classes to vomit because of my chemotherapy.
Today, I look in the mirror and see scars that surgeries have left behind, but I would not trade them. I am lucky. I am blessed. I am cancer-free. Some of the friends I made on the cancer floor at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health weren't so lucky. Their situations were far worse than mine, yet the way they handled themselves and the way they fought inspired people. They taught me the right way to fight cancer. Those kids changed me forever. I've got to believe they were put in my life for a reason.
Cancer woke up an angry giant in me, and I decided I was going to punch back. Once my cancer was gone, I started fundraising for Riley. I knew I couldn't cure cancer, but I could make a difference. My family and I established the Eric Metz Win this Battle! Fund, and with our supporters we've helped provide things such as recreational equipment and a video system in the teen room in the Riley Cancer Center. I truly understand what these kids are going through--little things can make the journey better.
My feet were literally bleeding when I completed my first Monumental Half-Marathon for Riley in 2010. But the image that kept me going was of a friend, Stephen Janssen, who had come out of isolation in the Riley Cancer Center that morning to wish me well during my race. He was glad just to be able to go outside. And here I was, on the other side of my cancer battle, healthy enough to run a race. You don't have to replay that through your mind too many times to get inspired.
Those of you who decide to join me in running in support of Riley will probably never understand the depths of cancer's impact on kids and families unless you visit a pediatric cancer unit. But if you are blessed enough to be able to run in a race, you should be able to understand how much more you have compared with many others. For kids fighting cancer, getting out of bed can be as difficult as running your first mile of a race. If you could see what I have seen, I believe you would feel the same way I do: like this is impossible to walk away from; like there is no way not to do everything you can to help those kids at Riley.