Whippet of the Week: Elizabeth ‘Bayless’ Miller

I’m a pretty old Whippet in that I’ve been with the team for over four years now. I’m also an old Whippet because I’m old. A master runner aged 41 and mom of three small kiddos… dragging up the average age of our young, vivacious team.

elizabethI realize many of you may not know me because I am a face you usually only see at the races. Balancing life with three little monsters, while also working full time means I miss out on the camaraderie of the team work outs and social gatherings. I have to log my miles in the early mornings and my nights out are limited. I always wish I could be more involved, but I do enjoy living vicariously through many of you, reading posts of group work-outs, beer mile races and brunches post-race. And, I appreciate that while I miss the day to day events, I am just as much a part of the team when I show up at races in my Whippet singlet.

I joined the team the day after I moved to New York in July 2012. I moved here with my husband and our kids to take an opportunity with my firm. The first thing I did after arriving was to look for a group to run with. Daniela A and I share whippet-versary because our first workout with the team fell on the same Wednesday morning. That kicked off many great friendships I’ve built with my fellow teammates over the last four years.

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Photo by Ben Ko

Since joining the team, I’ve run three marathons. My debut was the Mohawk Marathon, which I ran with Tommy, Otto and Kino, each of whom gave me good luck hugs and sound advice that helped boost me to a wonderful first experience. I achieved my main goal, which was to qualify for Boston. However, when registration time rolled around, I had to pass because I’d  became pregnant with baby #3, whose due datewas the weekend of the marathon.  However, I had also just kicked off training for NY when I found out I was expecting, so I knew I had another chance to BQ provided I was able to keep up with my training and get through the race. I trained every mile with that little guy in my belly and when I crossed the finish line, I touched my tummy and said “We did it.” I did get my second BQ and planned to run it the weekend of his first birthday.

elizabeth1When that little baby arrived, Kerry, he was our happiest, chubbiest baby. It was so evident to everyone who saw him how much he loved life. When he was about six months old, I started noticing a small, white glow in his eye, but only at certain angles and in certain lighting. I ignored it for a while, but ultimately decided to get it checked out. I sat with him on my lap as the ophthalmologist examined him, and while I noticed that the doctor got quieter as the minutes ticked on, I was still oblivious and totally confident I would hear it was nothing to worry about. When the doctor pushed back his chair and looked me in the eyes and softly said “I have bad news”, I still didn’t know what he could mean. It wasn’t until he said “I’m calling Memorial Sloan Kettering right now to get you into the best oncologist in the world for this form of cancer” that my heart started speeding up and I felt a huge punch in my gut. I was speechless. “Cancer…? But he’s only 7 months old…and he’s so healthy and happy….?”  Twenty-four hours later, we were sitting in MSK waiting for the diagnosis to be confirmed and his treatment plan to be laid out for us. We learned his cancer was surprisingly advanced despite his young age. It was aggressively taking over his eye and a hair’s distance from the optic nerve, which would be its path to his brain and become terminal if we didn’t kill it first.

It was absolutely correct that Kerry was referred to the best oncologist in the world for treating Retinoblastoma. People come from all over to be treated by Dr. Abramson at MSK. He’s revolutionized the prognosis for kids like Kerry by using targeted chemo treatment that is applied surgically through a series of long, careful operations. He is not only saving Kerry’s life, but also working hard to avoid the removal of Kerry’s eye. And, his targeted chemo therapy diminishes the harmful life-long side effects that would come from systemic chemotherapy and radiation, which causes other cancers down the road. Despite all the anxiety and fears involved with handing over my baby to a team of doctors to inject with deadly chemicals, I found comfort in the fact that there was no better doctor or better treatment in the world I could find for my boy. As unlucky as it seemed that Kerry was diagnosed with cancer, I soon realized that he is one of the lucky ones. Many children facing cancer are not so fortunate. They suffer and die not only from the cancer, but from the harsh, outdated treatments they are giving, most of which was designed and tested for adults.

The week Kerry was diagnosed, I got a stress fracture while running through tears. After 10 weeks in a boot, I was cleared to start running again, but on my second time out, I got another stress fracture. During those dark months when he was going through the toughest part of his chemo therapy, I really missed the emotional release that running always gives me. But I found peace holding Kerry and praying. I wished every minute, I could take on his battle myself. When people sympathized seeing me limp around in my boot, I always thought “but this is nothing!…my baby is fighting cancer!”

Of course with the stress fracture and Kerry’s treatment, I was unable to train for Boston as I’d intended. But, I still decided to run the marathon, just to finish it so that someday when he was older, I could share thissmall, symbolic part of the story with Kerry. I prayed each mile that he would continue to win his battle against cancer and that one day, he would run the Boston marathon on his birthday weekend.

elizabeth3Shortly after Boston, I decided to sign up for the NYC marathon once again – but this time for a higher purpose. I’ve always run marathons just for myself. Running was the one thing I consistently did for me. But, this time, I decided to join Fred’s Team to raise funds for pediatric cancer research at MSK. Of course I’d known about Fred’s Team and seen the orange shirts in the park and at races, but now it was all personal.

I always expected to be dreadful at fundraising, but I have been so committed to this, spending hours every night sending emails and appealing to people to open their hearts and give.   My original goal was to raise $10,000. This past week, I have raised nearly $70,000 and am presently the second highest fundraiser for Fred’s Team (which hopes to raise $4 million in total for the marathon). What an honor. I am so inspired by all the wonderful people who hear Kerry’s story and want to give to the cause. I have always known the joy of giving, but now I am experiencing the joy and gratitude of being given to because they are inspired by Kerry’s story and our appeal. I continue to tell people that any donation, no matter how small is appreciated. It all adds up to make a difference.

As I look ahead to my race in a little less than four weeks, I want to share one more thing. We have met so many other families at MSK through Kerry’s journey and I plan to dedicate each mile of my race to a brave child who has fought or is fighting cancer. My 26th mile will be dedicated to my own sweet Kerry Boy. Some of the children I will be honoring that day have passed away after a long, brave fight. Others have successfully made it through treatment, enduring more than any person should ever have to face in a lifetime. Others are fighting for their lives right now. These are the real heroes. I am profiling them on Facebook, so feel free to friend me and follow along to hear their brave stories. You will also find a link to my fundraising page there. Any donation of any size at all is sincerely appreciated.

More about Dashing Whippets Running Team

The Dashing Whippets Running Team is a New York based running team that is founded on, and driven by, the diversity of our team members. With team members from all over the city, the country and the world, and with greatly different running goals, we find unity in recognizing and appreciating each others differences and our mutual enjoyment of running and participating in the New York running community and beyond.

One thought on “Whippet of the Week: Elizabeth ‘Bayless’ Miller

  1. Laura Johnson

    My sister. I love her. May Kerry’s story reach more and more people to do good in world.

    Reply

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