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LeVan reaches goal: She'll run in trials today

by Jenni Carlson Published: April 20, 2008
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en with a full-time job as an emergency room nurse — the family also owns an organic farm in Wiscasset, Maine — LeVan felt good.

Maddie, on the other hand, had a cough.

A few days later, she started running a fever, too. The doctor prescribed antibiotics, but instead of improving, Maddie's health declined over the next few days.

Blood work revealed her white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets all had low counts.

The only answer: leukemia.

"In some ways, I kind of felt like I was having this out of body experience,” LeVan remembered. "‘Is this really happening to me? Are we really here at the hospital?'”

One night, LeVan clutched Maddie as the nurse stuck in a needle again and again. The more they prodded for a vein for the IV, the more Maddie squirmed and screamed.

"This is my absolute worse nightmare,” LeVan thought.

Finally after more than a week, Maddie improved enough to go home and continue treatment.

So began a steady stream of cancer drugs, blood transfusions and bone marrow biopsies. Trips to the doctor became more frequent than ones to the grocery store.

LeVan spent so much time running around that she had little time for running.

The 2008 Olympic trials seemed completely far-fetched.

‘Such a long journey'
Life had been turned upside down, and yet, Emily and Brad wanted to keep it as normal as possible.

"It's important for us to show Maddie that life goes on,” LeVan said. "Life doesn't need to stop because you get sick or because you have a bump in the road.”

That notion led LeVan back to marathoning.

LeVan returned to her training about a month after Maddie's diagnosis, and she did so with more than an Olympic goal.

The family decided to start a fundraiser for the Maine Children's Cancer Program.

The name: Two Trials.

A few days ago, the fundraiser totaled more than $64,000, surpassing its goal.

Today, LeVan will reach hers.

No matter how she runs or where she finishes in the Olympic trials, just making it to the starting line is accomplishment enough. She knows she likely won't be as competitive as she could be — she has the 14th-best qualifying time — and making the Olympic team is a long shot.

"But I'm pretty confident that my sense of accomplishment ... just being there at the starting line will be much greater than I ever could've imagined,” she said. "That starting line not only means the starting line for the trials; it means we've persevered through Maddie's treatments and made significant strides.

"We've come on such a long journey in the past several months.”

Maddie still has steps remaining on her road to recovery. She has just finished a three-week round of steroids, and there is more treatment to come.

But today, no one is worrying about the work that remains. They are celebrating how far they've come.

Their trials are different, but the journey is shared.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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Marathoner Emily LeVan poses with her daughter Maddie near the finish line of the Olympic trial and Boston Marathon in Boston. Associated press

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