Hi, there fellow ShokzSquad members! My name is Steffanie, and I’m a proud ShokzStar residing in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, USA. Today I want to share with you a story of spreading happiness — one that reached a depth I did not anticipate.
I first met Miechel Barksdale in November of 2017. She is a single mom to a young teenage daughter, Kennedy and runs a preschool out of her home. We were going to be teammates the following summer for our very first Hood to Coast Relay. Our team captain was a mutual friend who brought us together. The three of us met up to run several times in the following months to train and get to know each other more, and on one such run, Miechel mentioned that she had found a lump in her breast. She already had a biopsy taken and was awaiting the results which were to come later that week. Understandably shaken, she took some comfort in what the doctor had told her — there was an 80% chance of this being benign, especially with no family history of breast cancer. She received a call later in the week and was asked to schedule an appointment. There seemed to be no urgency from the caller which Miechel interpreted as a good sign. Still, not wanting to prolong whatever needed to happen next, Miechel took the first available appointment the following week.
I’m sure you’ve already anticipated what came next — the doctor confirmed that it was indeed cancer. The diagnosis was on June 26, 2018, and Miechel had a double mastectomy on July 13th. She experienced a lot of pain in the early post-op period. Not one to take even aspirin or Tylenol, Miechel reluctantly took the pain meds prescribed to her. Although the surgery was successful in removing all visible signs of cancer, Miechel still needed chemotherapy. So, approximately four weeks later, she began the next phase. She did not like the idea of “putting poison” into her body and was terrified of what it might do to her, but she knew it had to be done. The possibility of neuropathy — damage to peripheral nerves that can cause numbness or weakness — was perhaps the scariest. It was August of 2018, she was supposed to be gearing up to run the Hood to Coast Relay with her teammates, but instead, she was recovering from surgery and heading in for her first round of chemo. On December 14th, Miechel received her last dose of chemo and is currently cancer-free.
Miechel credits the overwhelming love and support that poured in around her for getting her through this challenging time. Immediately upon learning of her diagnosis, her family and friends gathered and brainstormed ways to help. They created GoFundMe page. There was a CycleBar fundraiser along with a silent auction. Meal trains and house-cleaning calendars were set up. Miechel’s part-time coworker and a friend stepped in to provide continuity for all the preschoolers. Miechel says it was a time when she physically felt at her worst but found it hard to feel that way with all the love and support that surrounded her.
Something you need to know about Miechel is that she's a very active person. Before her cancer, she was running with her dog five days a week in the mornings and then caring for busy preschoolers all day. She enjoys many outdoor activities including paddle boarding and cycling. She has competed in multiple mud runs and sprint triathlons and has a “glory wall” in her garage with quite the collection of medals. Being sidelined from her active lifestyle like this was extremely difficult for her. She couldn’t wait to get back out there and move again. But she still had one more hurdle to overcome — reconstructive surgery. After lots of research, Miechel chose not to go forward with this but still had to have the expanders removed that were “holding place” for future implants. She had that final surgery at the end of January 2019. It was a seven-month tumultuous journey — seven months of no running.
Here is where my part of "spreading happiness” comes in.
Eager to get moving again, Miechel is back on a relay team, and we are set to run HTC Pacific City in May. At a recent team meeting, I mentioned that I had a free race entry to a local 10k event on February 10th. Miechel piped up and said she was interested. I sent her the information that night, and she immediately signed up. As it turned out, February 10th was the first day that she had the official “green light” from her doctor to resume running again. The race was only a week away, but she didn’t care. She had no performance goal. She just saw it as an opportunity to get out and see what she could do. She liked that I was going to be there — a familiar face — that it was local and free!
Race day came, and Miechel showed up with the support of her daughter Kennedy, and boyfriend, Rick who came into the picture just as she was learning about her diagnosis and quickly became her rock through all of this. As for the race, Miechel tells me that morning she thought she might be able to pull off an average pace of 12:00. She ended up running a 10:09! I don’t think she knows this, but she also earned the 3rd place female age group award that day. Putting pace and awards aside, this was nothing short of a victory race. Miechel crossed that finish line and landed in the arms of Rick and Kennedy and the flood gates opened. Tears of joy, tears of relief. In her words, it signified "the end of The Crap and the beginning of The Good." She had no idea going into it that this race was going to be such a big deal. The tears completely took her by surprise.
Afterward, Miechel gave me the biggest hug and thanked me over and over for giving her the free race entry. Something that seemed so small to me turned out to be so HUGE and meaningful to her. I am so grateful to have played a small part in this story that made one person, my friend, so incredibly happy.