DALLAS — Justin Ozuna of Plano, Texas, will tell you he’s not a runner, and he’ll beam that white-toothed smile as he says the words. But with every step away from his leukemia diagnosis — on the treadmill, on the streets of Fort Worth, Texas, for his first 5K, eventually on the Dallas Half Marathon route come December — he’s becoming one.
He decided to start running because for seven years, he didn’t have a lot of choices. Decisions he did make bordered more on desperation than desire: He dropped out of school. He stopped taking his meds because he couldn’t afford them. He worked jobs he didn’t like because they offered health insurance.
As he later wrote: “It was easier to pay for my medicine every third paycheck as opposed to every second. I felt ashamed, guilty and embarrassed, but it gave me a lot of freedom. … It’s like walking into the gym and trying to lift a weight you’ve never lifted before, just to impress the prettiest girl in the room. Without a spotter, or someone to help you lift the weight, it will soon come crashing down. Nobody is capable of lifting the weight of cancer on their own.”
“There was a seven-year period where everything was paused,” says Justin, 31. “Early on, I was like, ‘I’m not going to live long,’ and I gave up.”
But giving up just wasn’t Justin. Fighting was, and the ensuing battle, he later wrote for the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s cancerwise.org blog quoted above (one of his three blog sites excerpted here), “was like running a mental marathon. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go with mentally.”
So when Oncor, where he now is contentedly employed, asked employees to state a goal for 2013, Justin knew almost immediately: running a half-marathon. — MCT