Find Your Why

Find Your Why

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My name is Karen Berenson and I am a cancer survivor, just not in the most traditional sense. 

In January of 2013, my brother-in-law Tim was diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma, and passed away just 11 weeks later. Day in and day out, I watched Tim fight like a hero for his life - with my sister Nancy never leaving his side. Literally. After I would finish my morning client sessions, I would head to the hospital to spend time with Nancy and Tim, and then go back to work for my evening clients. Over those surreal weeks, I saw my brother-in-law go from a big guy who loved to tinker with machinery and fix anything he could get his hands on, to a weakened man who was no longer able to move his left arm due to nerve damage caused by a tumor on his spine. He lost an incredible amount of weight. And his pain was unbearable - he was on various cocktails of morphine, fentanyl, oxycontin, and dilaudid. We now understand the pain caused by cancer in bone tissue to be one of the worst pains a human can endure.

I simply cannot express in words the visions I have of Tim's decline. The visions of the pain and suffering he and my sister - and the rest of us went through. The amount of tears we cried and still cry, or the way that a loss of this magnitude affects our family still. I am the youngest of 6 kids. My sister started dating Tim when I was just 13. For me, I didn't lose a brother-in-law. I lost my brother.

So you might be wondering what this has anything to do with RunFit MKE. Well, prior to Tim’s passing I had run in races before, but was never a self-proclaimed runner. After my first half marathon I didn't think I would run any long-distance races again. For me, running is painful. My legs hurt, my feet hurt - it just doesn't come natural. 

Well, when Tim passed, I contacted the American Cancer Society out of nothing more than a desperate act to feel like I was doing something - anything - to make sure our family would never experience a tragedy like this again. That year I completed my first marathon as part of the ACS DetermiNation Team in Chicago. I raised $2500 for an organization that gives hope to so many. But the story doesn’t end there.

In 2014, my father was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer exactly one day before my sister-in-law was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer. So I ran again in 2015. And in 2016. And in 2017. And in 2018. I’ve collectively raised over $40,000 during my 6 years as part of Determination.

My training has been hard - painful at times - always a battle. But during the miles that seem too long to finish, I remember back to the eulogy my brother Paul gave at Tim's funeral.

Paul said, "I can imagine when Tim gets to Heaven, he will ask God what took Him so long to take him - why he had to go through day after day of pain in those final days when he was ready to go." Paul said he can imagine God would say "Tim, would you take one more day of pain if it meant it would help other people. Would you take one more day of pain if it meant that you would help a single person even if you didn't know them. Like so many times before, Paul believed Tim wouldn't hesitate to say 'absolutely'."

So I raise funds and I run, one painful step at a time, in hopes that I, like Tim, will help someone, even if I don't know them. In 2018 I took my support for American Cancer Society to the next level. RunFit MKE, my small labor of love, now contributes 5% of all proceeds to the ACS on an annual basis.

When I began this story, I stated that I am a cancer survivor. I don't say that to take anything away from those who have harbored the disease in their own bodies and beat it. But, as anyone who has been effected by cancer knows, it is not an affliction that only impacts those with the diagnoses. Rather it's a disease that changes the lives of every single person who loves and cares for them. So in many ways, Tim's story is also my story, and the story of my sister, the story of my entire family, the story of my friends and my clients. We are all survivors, because every day we live our lives in spite of great heartache. And at RunFit MKE, we survive to run for a cure and to tell our stories in hopes of helping even one more person.