Two hours after Lisa passed away, her husband Lincoln and their children all went on a run together. It was the most fitting tribute they could have made.
Lisa had been through the chemo, been through the radiation, and had started a targeted therapy drug. It had been a tough road, but she had, for a couple years, a mostly-normal life.
And that meant she was going running.
“She would run on the Murdock canal trail path,” her husband Lincoln says. “And on every intersection there's a yellow pad for accessibility traction. Anyone who walked with her or ran with her knew exactly what to do when she got to those.”
“You jumped up,” Lincoln says, “you stomped on it, and you said, ‘Take that, cancer!’”
So when the cancer recently took Lisa — literally just a couple hours after — Lincoln and their loved ones put on their running shoes (with a couple of them each wearing one of Lisa’s shoes), and went out on the Murdock Canal Trail. “We got to those yellow pads and we all jumped up in the air and we shouted, ‘Take that, cancer!’”
Somehow, it’s fitting that this tradition of jumping and stomping in defiance of cancer doesn’t happen at the beginning or end of the trail, but at intersections. And it’s a good opportunity for Lincoln to look back and talk about the amazing journey they took together.
There’s no such thing as an easy way to find out you or a loved one has cancer, but Lincoln and Lisa got a double blindside that feels especially brutal. “She felt a little bump on her shoulder — smaller than a pea,” Lincoln says, “and she decided to go have it checked out. And the doctor that looked at her said, ‘Well, the good news is that skin cancer is one of the most curable cancers there is.’”
As it turns out, though, this diagnosis was way off. “Within a short period of time,” Lincoln says, “they determined that it was actually lung cancer. I’ll never forget the day the doctor turned the computer screen around to us and showed us the large mass in her lung.”
In that moment, Lincoln describes himself as a mess, barely able to deal with the news — which is understandable. He says that Lisa, meanwhile, just got down to the business of getting started with her cancer treatment. “She was just positive,” is how Lincoln describes Lisa. “With every person and in every situation. She never thought for a moment that she wouldn't beat it.”
Hitting Back...by Running (and Stomping)
Following chemo and radiation, targeted therapy drugs allowed Lisa to live without serious side effects for a couple years. And while Lincoln is more of a mountain biker, Lisa loved running, and would head out as often as possible to run on the Murdock Canal.
They also ran the American Fork Canyon Run Against Cancer, along with Lisa’s father, who has undergone treatment for skin cancer. “The three of us ran together, side by side, for the entire 10K,” says Lincoln.
Lincoln ran ahead to take pictures of Lisa and her father at the finish line. “They ran that final stretch holding hands,” says Lincoln, “and as they crossed they raised their hands up in the air.”
Later, looking at her finisher’s medal, the significance of having finished this run really struck Lisa. “She had had such a struggle that previous year,” says Lincoln. “We were always hopeful, but we knew there was a terminal diagnosis.”
Finishing in the face of this painful reality made this race supremely meaningful to both Lisa and Lincoln. “She held that medal up,” says Lincoln, “and she said to me, ‘you make sure this is displayed at my funeral.’”
Focus On The Good
As Lincoln describes her, Lisa’s strength and positivity in the face of her cancer weren’t a new trait at all. “She had an incredible ability,” says Lincoln, “to always see the good in every person she ever met. And as I watched her go through her treatments over five years — and every time the cancer would spread — she would just focus on the good.”
“And there was a lot of good,” Lincoln affirms. “We had five years to experience living with more love and more determination than I think most people get. We both felt that because it gave us an opportunity to live and to love more deeply than we ever had the first 25 years of our marriage.”
This of course does not mean things were easy. “There's no question,” says Lincoln, “that these five and a half years were the most difficult. But at the same time, they were the happiest. And I attribute that to the way [Lisa] so valiantly lived life.”
And the fact that Lisa needed Lincoln’s help was an important part of what made this time good. “That was my opportunity to do things for her. And I did more for her in the last five and a half years than the 25 previous years. And what I found was how much I loved her, how much my love for her grew.”
Summarizes Lincoln, “You truly are happiest when you're serving other people.”