Monday, March 18, 2013

Q&A with marathon runner Caroline Armington

Caroline Armington, running for Angel, age 5, Wilms tumor

Caroline Armington, running for Angel, age 5, Wilms tumor

Q: What is your name?     

A: Caroline Armington

Q: Where are you from?   

A: Hamilton, MA

Q: What is your role at Massachusetts General Hospital?      

A: I am a Certified Child Life Specialist at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children Center for Pediatric Hematology-Oncology.

Q: Why did you choose to run the marathon for MassGeneral Hospital for Children?

A: As a child life specialist at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children Center for Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, I witness the impact of crucial childhood cancer research as well as the benefits of supportive, quality of life services for children and their families.  Philanthropic contributions through the tremendous efforts of the MassGeneral Marathon Team and John Hancock, enable life-saving research and therapeutic programming to thrive in an effort to best meet the needs of children and their families receiving treatment. At last year’s Boston Marathon, I eagerly cheered on the MassGeneral Team at mile 20 alongside my colleagues as well as the participating patient partners and their families. What an experience! It was incredibly inspiring and invigorating to watch each runner approach, take a moment with their excited patient partner, and push on to complete the run. As I took it all in, I quickly realized that I wanted to be on the other side of the spectator line the following year running for a cause I am passionate about. It was this moment of clarity that led me to apply to the MassGeneral Team and begin this life-changing journey toward the 117th annual Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.

Q: What kind of experience do you have as a runner?

A: I have had more experience as a spectator than as a runner myself.  I cheered on my father when he ran the Boston Marathon for charity in 2005, 2006, 2007 and in 2008 when he and my husband ran it together.  Although I have never considered myself a "runner" by definition, I have participated in two half marathons running my first with my father in 2008 in Portland, ME.  The second was the 29th Annual Applefest Half Marathon in Hollis, NH in 2011.  I have relied on these experiences as I have gone through my training for my very first full marathon and anticipate the 26.2 miles on marathon Monday to be the most challenging and rewarding physical and mental challenge in my life!  I am very excited!

Q: What inspires you as a runner?

A: I am inspired by running for a cause greater than myself and in honor of a very special little boy. Five-year-old Angel, who has shown an incredibly playful spirit throughout his treatment at the Center for Pediatric Hematolgy-Oncology, is a true inspiration and I am humbled to run in his honor.  I am also inspired knowing that the donations from family, friends, and colleagues who share my passion for this cause go directly to providing research and programming for the clinic.  These contributions will help ensure the best possible medical and emotional support for children and their families in the years ahead. 

Q: What has been your most memorable moment preparing for the marathon?

A:  The most memorable moment preparing for the marathon was watching the excitement on Angel’s face when I told him about running in the marathon for him!  He was also shocked to see me for the first time in my running gear instead of my traditional work attire!  The physical training has also revealed meaningful moments.   One of these includes the strong sense of camaraderie running up heartbreak hill alongside Mass General teammates who offered an outpouring of encouragement and support.  This instant sense of connection with others who share the bond of believing so strongly in this cause is quite powerful.  Another meaningful moment was the sense of accomplishment I felt after completing my longest training run to date.  The run was 17 miles and the farthest distance my sneakers have ever run at once!

Q: What have you learned about your patient partner and what makes him special?

A: I have had the honor of working with and getting to know Angel, my patient partner, as part of his multidisciplinary care team. As a child life specialist on the team, I have the opportunity to interact with Angel when he comes in for treatments and procedures.  Through these interactions, I have come to know Angel as a bright, articulate, playful, creative, funny, loving, thoughtful, courageous young boy! He loves to use the iPad2 or his imagination to help him cope with his procedures and treatment and is a wonderful advocate for himself. He loves playing restaurateur in the playroom with play dough, doing crafts, and playing games. It has been such a pleasure getting to know Angel throughout his treatment.  Having the opportunity to run for him is truly humbling!

Q: What are you most looking forward to about marathon day?

A: 100% mile 20! Of course I am hoping to finish the marathon and complete it on two feet, but it is mile 20 and the sight of Angel with his family that will guide me through the first 20 miles of the course! I have been at mile 20 before with all of the spirited and supportive MGHfC clinic and child life staff, as well as all of the patient partners and their families and was truly moved by the sight! I eagerly anticipate the joy of seeing all those gathered in their gold t-shirts at mile 20 which will give me the courage and strength to complete the following and final 6.2 miles!

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

A: I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in the tradition of the MassGeneral Marathon Team in its 16th year since Howard Weinstein, MD, chief of the Division of Pediatric-Hematology-Oncology, started it in 1998.  Working alongside the dedicated practitioners as part of the child life team in the clinic, I am inspired by all who have dedicated themselves to providing compassionate care to children and families every day.  I eagerly anticipate running the Boston Marathon to support imperative childhood cancer research and supportive programming which will impact the care of each special child and family treated at the Center for Pediatric Hematology-Oncology. 

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