Why Bender’s Mender

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2014, I was 39 years old and running eight to ten miles most Saturdays with a group of close women friends. (You can read more of my story here.) Though I was able to maintain a base level of running throughout my intensive cancer treatment (six months of chemotherapy followed by a left mastectomy and six weeks of radiation), I wasn’t able to eke out more than three miles at a time; plus, my pace slowed dramatically. My goal from the beginning of treatment has been to get back to those long weekend runs.

Toward that end, my running (and dear) friends have been endlessly cheering me on, slowing their own pace to keep me company as I build my strength and stamina; as well as planning a getaway weekend run for us to do together to celebrate my healing. Initially we looked into already established races, but it isn’t easy to find a ten-miler, which is my particular goal. So, for the weekend of May 7, I am traveling to Nantucket with five other families for a customized, ten mile, comeback run—now officially named “Bender’s Mender” after my last name!

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I’ve always known that I wanted my comeback run to be not just about celebrating my recovery, but about giving back. And so, I am running to raise money for two organizations: The Cancer Connection, a local organization that has offered invaluable support to me and hundreds of others touched by cancer; and MET UP, a national organization “committed to changing the landscape of metastatic cancer through direct action.”

I am running for the one in eight women in the United States who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime; and for the more than 40,000 women who die in this country each year because of metastatic breast cancer. I am running because we are ALL survivors, for as long as we live, and I am lucky enough to be living still.

If you would like to cheer me on to the Bender’s Mender finish line; if you would like to support others with cancer; if you would like to help find a cure for metastatic disease, please consider making a contribution of any amount here.

With gratitude,

Jenny Bender

p.s. To receive email updates, please click “follow” on the bottom left of this page.

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DONATE: www.youcaring.com/bendersmender

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Bender Is Mended!

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My family (Josh, Harrison and Sophie) at the finish line! 

I hesitate to write/say “Bender is Mended,” because I question whether I am or will ever be “fully mended.” Truth is, I question whether any of us are ever fully mended from whatever challenges begin to present themselves the moment we enter the world. What does it even mean to be fully mended? Aren’t we all stitched up beings, forever changed in some way by whatever led to the stitches in the first place? Perhaps we’re stronger in some ways, more vulnerable in others… do those vulnerabilities mean we are less mended? Clearly I’ve been contemplating such questions of late…

One thing is certain: I feel a physical confidence that I haven’t felt since before starting treatment– and maybe not even then. I think I am coming back with even more confidence, knowing I can go through what I did and come out the other side feeling truly good again.

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Evidence of and reasons for this (re)new(ed) confidence:

  • I am taking more physical risks. Last week, I went to an advanced modern dance class that I’ve been wanting to take for months but have been too afraid to try. Finally I took the plunge, and though I definitely fell into the bottom half of the class, my struggle was with learning the steps, not with keeping up physically. (Also, I LOVED it and want to go back. I spent the first half of my life dancing, and it felt great to move again like that.) The more risks I take like this, the more proud I feel of myself, the more confident I am to take on even more risks. Maybe I’ll finally get past my fear of biking near cars and take up a new kind of exercise!
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Exploring the island… no cars in site so I’m good. 

  • I am able to push through a too busy week on too little sleep. My life has once again taken on a fast pace (too fast at times, but thankfully I’m doing things I love), and I am tired. But my fatigue now feels like every-body-fatigue, not cancer-treatment-fatigue. Most days, I am aware of the difference, and it boosts my confidence to know that I am once again the kind of tired that I can push on through when necessary.
  • My running has been a gauge for my physical health since starting treatment, and I am very suddenly feeling new leaps of strength. Not only did I run 11.5 miles during Bender’s Mender (we got a little lost, had to roll under some barbed wire fences, ahhh what good times we had).
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    Get that butt down, Bender!

    I also ran those 11.5 miles the fastest I’ve run since starting chemotherapy in November 2014! I thought perhaps it was the adrenaline of the day, but I seem to have suddenly crossed another threshold. For months, I was stuck at a 10:30 minute/mile and am now averaging 9:45-10:00. My average before treatment was 9:30-9:45. I had honestly accepted the fact that I would never get back to my old pace, but it seems I was wrong. Hence, confidence abounds!

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How many miles in?

So even though there are things that, try and hope as I might, may never fully return to “normal” (my memory, for one, is giving me concern), Bender’s Mender has most definitely mended me in tangible, significant, gratifying ways. It gave me what I hoped for—a sense of renewed strength, and a sense of closure.

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My wonderful running companions. From left: Clover, Amanda, me, Nunia, Jain, Jen

It also raised $7,200 to be split between the Cancer Connection and MET UP!!!! Thank you, all of you generous, fantabulous supporters!

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Josh doing a happy jump outside the (amazing) house that was generously offered to us for the weekend

And thank you again, Nunia, for your hours of planning and inspiring that made this the going-down-in-Bender-history event that it was.

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Nunia and me at the ocean finish

The run, and the weekend, were incredible, amazing, wonderful, perfect.

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Our Nantucket crew

 

Here are some more glimpses of the fun:

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At the finish line with my love, who was at my side the whole time,”in sickness and in health”

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Best water station EVER! Our girls, ages 4 through 9, cheering us on. (Our boys, ages 10-11, are off on bikes somewhere.)

 

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A wee break so someone who will remain nameless could pee for the 7th time. (And how we LOVE her and her tiny bladder!)

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To the finish line! Our daughters ran the last 3/4 mile with us, the perfect way to end (and to cool down).

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EVERYONE is having a grand time! EVERYONE is celebrating at the beach finish!

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Our clown car: one vehicle, many children. (Don’t worry, mom, we were very safe and would never try this at home.)

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Pre-run dance party on the porch

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We did it!! Bender is back and better than ever!!

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Me feeling super grateful. Thank you.

Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude

Tomorrow is the big day! I’m posting this from the most luxurious of homes (courtesy of my amazingly generous in-laws’ -in-laws)! I feel like a broken record, always writing about how blessed I feel. BUT I DO, I DO, feel so incredibly blessed!! (I also know first hand how good-for-the-soul gratitude is, so better to be a broken record about that than just about anything else!)
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I just now looked at all the new donations and comments on the YouCaring site (new since the last time I listed and thanked everyone who has contributed). Below are the names and comments from everyone who has donated since. Wow. I feel like I could run TWENTY MILES with all of you amazing people cheering me on! And WOW, we, all of us together, have raised over SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS for two cancer organizations close to my heart! What a difference that will make in the lives of so many people. I feel so honored that I get to be the one to send a $3500 check to the Cancer Connection and MET UP! I know everyone who works so hard at those organizations to help so many people will be floored by their own gratitude when they receive the donation. Both organizations know about the run/fundraiser, but I told them to expect about a $1000 each, as never in my wildest dreams did I expect to raise so much. So, once again (and there will be more soon, I’m sure): Thank you.
Renee & Chris Greenfield
Harvey Bender
Shanna Schwartz: I am so impressed with your spirit and drive for life – thank you for sharing it with us all!
Taije Silverman: You’ve been a model for me since we were 18. Really. And you still are. More so. Thank you.
Richard and Janice Canalori
Lauren Lawrence-Riddell: Michael and I are rooting for you on your run and always. Sending huge hugs!
Mo Quinlan: Good luck in your run my fellow survivor!
Michelle Melamed
Megan Lardner: LOVE YOU, Jenny Bender! Simply awe-inspiring, life-affirming and love-giving. Sending tons of support and high-fives and bow-downs for your stamina, strength and joy! xoxo
Melissa Power-Greene: You are such a rockstar Jenny Bender! So happy to hear that you are out running again!! Sending our love and cheering you on! Xx
Clover Lewis: Yahoo Jenny! Love you!
Pam Roberts: I am happy to support these worthy organizations in your honor. I appreciate your good energy, your thoughtfulness and your gorgeous writing. Good luck with the run!
Brooksley Williams
Lucy Calkins: So proud of you and so grateful for the story of all your supporters.
Ang + Thom Long: You’re da bomb, girl! Have a great run! xoxo 💣💖
Phylis Greenfield: Go girl!
Benjamin Gantcher
Carol Levow: Jenny you are an inspiration and joy to hear about through your Mama! My warmest regards to you and your amazing family. Much Love and blessings
Lise and Eric Sanders
Louisa Wimberger: What a beautiful event!
Nunia & Josh Mafi Silver: So much love for you, dear Jenny. We’re honored to be running next to you on this journey. xo
Lily White: Good luck Jenny! You’re inspiring, wish I could be there for the run.
Maggie Bittel Barry Daggett: Our dear JB! What an amazing inspiration you are in so, so many ways. You’re showing us all just how it’s done! So much love, M&B
Elisabeth Armstrong
Audra Robb: Go, Jenny!
Cory Gillette Rinzler: Xoxox
Janet Bennett: Dear Jenny, We are in awe of your spirit and perseverance. Such an inspiration. And, yes, what a wonderful crew backing you up. You are a powerful bunch. Much love from Janet, Mark and Adia
Brian Oestreich: Bend & mend away!!! We love you !!! Xox briguy & fam
Elanit Weisbaum: Love you!
Vijay Prashad: Run Jenny Run!
Christine Harris: It is so wonderful to see you so much more than mended. This experience has enlarged your being and spirit in so many beautiful ways. We are thrilled to be able to both witness and support you as you blossom anew. Lots of love. Christine, Bob & Yulu
Katherine Bomer: Your spirit , gratitude and generosity light the world, dear Jenny. I hope a crowd will fill the streets to cheer you on, and I am there in spirit.
Kathie Bredin: Keep doing good. Lots of love to you!!
Mike & Jack Mechem: You will be in our thoughts as you always are. Run well.
Carina Wohl
Julia Mooney: I’m in awe of you, Jenny–now, as always! You go, Girl!
Michael Aleo
Julie Starr: You go Jenny!!! xoxo J
Sai Seigel: Dearest Jenny- You are amazing and inspiring! xoxo
Deborah Keisch: Sorry for taking so long to do this! Been with you in spirit the whole way…and will definitely be cheering you on from afar! You are truly an inspiration.
Kristin McCue: I can’t wait to hear all about it! May the winds be at your back! With love.
Betsy Young: Lovin’ you Jenny, every step of the way. Thank you for being the inspiration that you are. xo
Joe Mechem: It is loves’s spring and these showers bring it on. Be cheerful. WS
Malcolm Harper
Connie McGuire: Go Jenny! I wish I could join you for the run! One of these days soon we will go for a jog together. Love love love, Con
Mariejeanne Stirlin
Kimberly Quinlan
Elizabeth Haymaker: Go Jenny!
Nicole Bourdon: Go, Jenny, Go!
Connie Clark: Go Jenny. You are an inspiration!!
Julie Harris-Scherzer: From one survivor to another, keep up the fight. You’re a star!
Stephanie Joyce: I have long been dazzled by your brilliance as a mom, mentor, writer, and friend but never more than by your indomitable spirit to let this journey change you for the better. May the sun shine brightly on each swift step…go with the wind. I’ll be cheering you from afar. Soar!
Mary Bates: A worthy cause all around! You go, girl!!
Hannah Sessions: Great idea, and wonderful that you are culminating your cancer experience with such strength and comradery! I was diagnosed at age 35– four years ago now– and also kept running throughout it all! So important. Congratulations and way to go, cheering you on from VT! -Hannah- a long-ago friend of Nunia’s!
Tom & Mary Beth O’Connor
Tonja and Tricia Santos Loomis: You go girls!
Abby Lattes
Sandra & Eric Lucentini: Hi Jenny, We haven’t seen you in some time, but we just saw your story in the paper. So very sorry to hear what you’ve gone through, but happy to cheer you on in your recovery. All our best to you and your family, Sandra, Eric & Thaddeus Lucentini
Noel & Mike Raley Dunkerley: YES Jenny! You and all you awesome women are amazing!
Megan Murphy Wolf
monsterthankyouAnd the donations keep coming, post-run! Here are a few more….
Marsha Archuleta
Marilyn London -Ewing: Sounds like the run was a success. Bravo to all of you.
Kat Allen: Awesome Jenny! I hope it was fabulous! You’re a super-star!
Liz Charland-Tait

Feature Article on Bender’s Mender!

 

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From left, Rabbit (our dog companion), me, Amanda, Jen, Nunia, Clover, Jain. We all head to Nantucket this weekend with our families!

Our local paper, the Hampshire Gazette, did a feature article on Bender’s Mender this week– a two page spread with a slew of pictures! My daughter, Sophie, appears in one of the pictures which was great fun, to watch her excitement about being in the paper. And I don’t deny it, it’s been pretty exciting for me, as well, especially as I get to receive people’s responses. Today, as my Wednesday morning running group passed a stranger on the path, she shouted, “I saw you all in the paper yesterday! Good luck this weekend!” And later, I went for a check-up with my radiation oncologist, and everyone in the office–receptionists, nurses, doctor–greeted me with joy. “That’s our girl!” they said. “We put the paper in the break room, we’re all so proud of you.” More gratitude for me. 🙂

As for the article itself, I’m grateful to writer James Heflin for putting together a piece I feel so good about. (One never knows!) I am particularly grateful for two places where he quoted me:

Bender is clear on one thing: She doesn’t want hers to be “another pretty breast cancer story that says, ‘Fight hard enough, work hard enough, and you can beat it.’ 

“Fighting,” she says, isn’t what got her through. “I’m one of the lucky ones–not because of hard work, but luck. I want to acknowledge that. Part of why I’m running is for the women who can’t.”

This is SO IMPORTANT to me: that we celebrate the “success” stories like mine without ignoring the all too many stories of women who fight just as hard as I do–are just as committed to survival as I am–but simply haven’t been as lucky as I have been (so far, fingers crossed).

Another especially significant quote, since it pretty much sums up how I’ve approached breast cancer: “Many people just want to get through treatment and go back to their old life. I wanted to use it as an opportunity to change and grow.” 

To read the full piece, visit http://www.gazettenet.com/Bender-s-Mender-1806879

 

 

Risk-Taking

This month, I am trying to take a (healthy) risk a day. Part of the challenge has been figuring out what that even looks like. What do I think of as a risk? What are examples of risks, big and small, that I might take? I’ve loved exploring these questions with people. (How does my idea of a risk compare to or differ from your idea of a risk? What risk could you take today? I’d love to hear your responses!!)

This week, my greatest risk was setting my alarm for 5:30 a.m. (a risk in and of itself since I am the opposite of a morning person), so that I could try the Bikram yoga class a few doors down from where I was staying in Washington DC. (I took a Bikram yoga class, once, about 20 years ago.) This week’s class felt great, and I felt truly proud of myself.

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Post-run yoga on my front lawn to loosen those muscles!

I have recently realized a couple of things about myself and risk taking: I willingly and frequently take emotional risks. I rarely and hesitantly take physical risks. I lack a physical confidence that has kept me from playing sports, from spending much time on a bike, from ever really learning how to swim, from trying new forms of exercise. The one and only time I trained for and ran a half marathon felt like one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. It was such a stretch for me, pushing my body like that.

I feel the same sense of accomplishment now, as I near my 10-mile goal. I really didn’t know whether I would ever be capable of this again. But here I am, once more running 7, 8, 9 miles on the weekend as part of my regular routine!

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Here I am, feeling strong again—which is what allowed me to risk that yoga class. I never would have had the courage a few months ago. How very grateful I am: I am grateful for my working arms and legs, heart and lungs. And I am grateful to all of you. I doubt that I would be where I am today were it not for your continuous kindness and support, as well as your confidence in me when I lacked confidence in myself.

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The complete Bender’s Mender Nantucket crew, just before taking off for our 8 mile run today. From left: my husband Josh, me, Amanda, Jen, Nunia, Clover, Jain.

 

 

 

 

Look at this INCREDIBLE SUPPORT!

I’ve copied and pasted from the YouCaring site the names of and comments from everyone who has donated so far. I will continue to add to this post as more people contribute and comment. How I LOVE reading your words of encouragement! Thank you for your generous wallets as well as your generous spirits. You all rock my world and my heart! 

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Catherine Fenollosa: Go Jenny! We’ll be cheering you on and sending you lots of loving vibes. xoxo
Aimee Feeley: Jenny — you are amazing and an inspiration to all! Keep on running!!! Love you tons. xoxo Aimee, John, Ryan and Alyson
Alison Kellner: We’re rooting for you! XoXo, Alison
Emily Baillargeon
Jan Elvee: Awesome!
Marie Burk: It’s amazing how far you have recovered! Great attitude!!! Send LOL to the family and to U! xo, Aunt Rie
Beth Harris: You are a true inspiration!
Marjorie Harris: Love you Jenny! Hope it’s a great day for a run on the Rock
Annie Borgenicht: You are the best. So special that you are doing this on Nantucket. Keep shining your bright light. Love you, Borgy.
Eric Payne: Go Girl!!
Frank Egan: We love you Jen-nay! You’re strength and resolve are nothing short of inspiring, Enjoy your run and thank you for this fundraiser!
Dina Redman: Dearest Jenny, You never cease to amaze me! Wow – 8 to 10 miles – most impressive! Also impressive is your patient dedication to building up your energy and strength and to holding to that process over time. And what a spectacular idea to do this in service to some very worthy organizations! I wish you great pleasure with all! Much love, Dina
Sue TrupinJenny, you are such a star! love, Sue T
Suzanne Harris: You and your awesome posse are running miracles. I am cheering you on every step of the way. Love you more, Mama
Elizabeth Horn
Joe and Jean Westover: You are Wonder-Woman! We are so happy for you, and hope to learn details when the run is complete, Your stamina and determination are amazing.
Jeffrey Lindemann
Kara Kritis Harper: You are impressive and inspiring, and I wish you the best training and run ever. xo
Laurel Turk: Cancer Connection, Met Up, and Jenny Bender–all my favorites! Thanks for letting us share in this celebration.
Judy Olasov: Yay, Jenny!!!
Ezra Parzybok: Make it a bender, Jenny!
Anonymous: I met you at Clover’s bday, at the Mexican restaurant. You were so kind. Very sorry to hear about your illness, and so glad that you are doing well. All the best, Luisa
Josh Finkel
Jain Lattes
John Forsayeth: Good to see you recovering so well, Jenny. Best wishes from Joan and me.
Jen Berneche Stiles
Jenae Westover: You are such a source of constant inspiration to me Jenny Bender! I am grateful every day, moment, second for you in my life. xo
Elizabeth VanHouten: I, too, am a survivor, in remission as of a few months ago and also working at regaining strength. You are an inspiration, I want all of us to continue to thrive and keep this disease at bay. Good luck on your run!!
Steve and Patti Lewis
Karen Bryant: Good luck, and have fun, Jenny. Such a great way to celebrate your health while helping others!
Kim OConnell: Thank you Jenny, keep shining your light !!!
Gwen Agna: Long may you run, Jenny, and work for so many!!
Pam Plumer
Mike McCrary: Go, Go GO!
Terry Blanchard: Jenny, so happy to support you in this beautiful way!!
Audre Bley: Yes!
Mary Ellen Reed: Keep on running…Keep on running!
Jordana Amato: I’m donating $36 which is symbolic for “Two lives” …the number 18 stands for “life” in Hebrew, 36 represents “two lives”. Seems fitting for your run. Good luck! We’ll be cheering for you!
Anonymous: “Be who you really are, and go the whole way.” Lao Tzu
Caroline Fenollosa: Have a great run. We will be thinking of you on the 7th.
Kate Roberts: I’ve followed a bit of your writing, & so your journey, from afar. Thank you for sharing it with us – you have already helped so many people w your words.
Whitney Strehle: Best of luck to you!
Kathleen Tolan: You mean the world to me and I feel blessed to have you in my life. I continue to be inspired by your strength, resolve and journey through this difficult illness. Love you to the moon and back.
Anne Moses: So happy and proud to know you….Go girl
Matthew Taylor: Love you SO much, Jenny. You are an inspiration to all of us and a shining example of living life with integrity, gratitude and grace. Keep on Runnin’….. XOXOX
Ned Harris: We are so happy for you Jenny! Have a great run and we will be thinking of you! Love, Steph & Ned
Nancy & Mark Bender
Molly Keehn: What a beautiful way to celebrate your recovery!!! I love this idea! So glad you are back out there running again, and I am so delighted to get to support you and also the Cancer Connection. xoxo
Susan Jane Sarouhan: Jenny, we have been so inspired by how you have both met and shared your process on this journey. xoJ2K
Jesse Belcher-Timme
Keegan & Wilson Pyle: So happy to support a such an important organization in our community, in the name of such an amazing woman. We love you, Jenny. xoxo
Molly and Mosie Senn-McNally: We love you, Jenny! Run on!
Sean Kilfeather
Christian Tate: We love you and celebrate your journey Jenny!
Gravity Goldberg
Amanda Hartman: Love you Jenny!
Jannell Turner: LOVE YOU. KEEP ROCKIN’ LIKE A CHAMP!
Eliza and Amanda Herman Wilmerding: RUN girl Run! We are so very proud of you.
Lora Martinez
The Savages Savage
 Shawn Selby
Chapin Mechem: You go girl!! xo
Melanie Brown
Eric Dostal: You go jb, and wear your contacts for this one

Raising the Roof to $5000!

I am overwhelmed! Once again, I have been humbled by the outpouring of support — such a huge outpouring this time that I reached by fundraising goal before the end of the 3rd day! Thank you friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, strangers for your generosity and encouragement. Clearly I need to increase my goal! Can we make it to $5000 by May 6?!

As for my running, I did SEVEN last weekend, and in the rain! My dearest friend Maggie joined me for five and a half; my Josh came along for the last four. I’m getting there!

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To be honest, I’ve been nervous about reaching my 10 mile goal, but after this weekend’s run, and after all the amazing messages from all you amazing people, my confidence is strong! Thank you.