By: Thomas Moore, Campus Editor
Many of us cannot imagine running 4000 miles in our lifetime, much less in one summer. We also cannot imagine being diagnosed with cancer and having to battle it. Yet, Furman’s own Emma Sanning has done both.
In December of 2016, Sanning was studying for her freshman year of college exams when her appendix ruptured causing her to miss exams. When she was finally allowed to return home, the doctors called and told her they had found a carcinoid tumor on her appendix and colon. For the next six months she had numerous appointments, scans and another surgery. Sanning is now cancer free, but the mental battle became more apparent for her.
Motivated by her and her family’s experiences, Sanning decided she needed to act. In her words, “Cancer is a hard topic to discuss at any age and there are few resources for young adults to express their emotions, pain and experiences. I wanted to use my experience of diagnosis and treatment as a way to initiate honest conversations not only in my community, but across the country.”
Sanning decided to engage in the 4k for Cancer, a program of The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. This not only allowed young adults affected by cancer to cope with their experiences, but also to raise money to support the fight against cancer. The challenge presented to her was running from San Francisco, Ca., to Baltimore, Md. with 18 other young adults affected by cancer in some way.
To prepare, Sanning went on a training plan starting the year before. Though she signed up for 4000 miles when she could not run more than a quarter of a mile a week, Sanning gradually built up to the point where she could manage as many as 13 miles on long days.
A typical day for Sanning’s experience was to run anywhere from six to sixteen miles per day, switching to a new partner each day. The runners had service days to support the community. They would deliver chemo-care bags and meet with cancer patients and scholarship recipients in various cities. During each run, they would get to understand new experiences about the reality they now endure.
The run itself presented its own challenges.
“It was such a powerful thing,” Sanning said. “Each morning, we would sit and go around in a circle and share who we were dedicating our miles to that day. We reminded each other of why we were running that day for times when we got tired and didn’t think we could do it.”
Eventually, Emma faced her own hurdles.
“16 miles from Telluride to Gunnison, Colorado straight up mountains,” Sanning said. “I have never felt so tired in my entire life. We covered thousands of feet of elevation that day. I had never run more than 13 miles and I was not convinced I could do much more. I ran with one of my best friends and the whole time he was beside me reminding me why I am here. The last two miles were straight up hill. He reminded me that a year ago I was in the hospital bed. When we made it to the end, I burst into tears and fell into a group hug with all my teammates.”
That day was one of Sanning’s favorites, along with Day 3, when her group members told her that they were all dedicating their miles to her. Sanning felt deeply loved despite only knowing the others for only three days. Finally, Sanning loved running into her hometown and feeling support from all the people she grew up with.
Emma found motivation through the letters that her friends and family would write to her during her run. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them,” Sanning said. She also sold t-shirts to raise money herself. Sanning raised $10,000 and the group raised a total of $900,000.
Emma’s story does not end here though; her fight is now a lifelong endeavor.
“I hope to work in public health,” Sanning said. “I want to work in health efficiency analysis and use economics and politics to initiate positive change in the health care system!”
“Above all —we have a really great God. This isn’t my story, but His!”
The 4K for Cancer is a program of The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (UCF). Interested in joining the fight? Apply to be a rider or runner a at http://www.4kforcancer.org!