2 St. Thomians to run in 2013 NYC Marathon
Published: October 19, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - For two St. Thomas runners, it has taken more than just miles to get to this year's New York City Marathon, which takes place Nov. 3.
Elliott "Mac" Davis, 62, and Amy Derksen, 41, both look healthy. They look like runners - fit, energetic and, well, healthy.
Yet, for Davis, who will be running his sixth New York City Marathon, and for Derksen, who will be running her first marathon, the road to the big race in the "Big Apple" has been anything but smooth.
"To think I could have missed this," Davis said.
Davis and Derksen both are raising funds for ailments that they have experience with first-hand.
Davis, who is fighting kidney cancer, is raising money for the American Cancer Society in the Virgin Islands. The money will go toward covering costs for local cancer patients, many of whom cannot afford the treatments they are receiving.
Derksen, who had an open heart surgery after finding out she had a genetic and potentially fatal heart defect, is raising money for the John Ritter Foundation, which raises awareness about and researches aortic disease, or disease that affects the heart's largest valve.
"I've been at the lowest point, where I've been barely able to walk about the hallway, and now I'm going to run 26 miles," Derksen said.
Each of them describes running as getting them through some of their toughest bouts of their ill health.
Davis, assistant legal counsel to Gov. John deJongh Jr., has had cancer for 16 years and has run as much as he has been able, which may be partially responsible for him still being here today, according to his doctors.
"Just put one step in front of the other. You just have to get up and go. Let the inertia carry you," he said.
Though his cancer has been deemed incurable and inoperable, Davis has been in the midst of various treatments during all of marathons in which he has run.
Many of the treatments have jumbled scientific names. He can name them all, in order from when he took them. Many of them have had crippling side effects, some worse than others.
A few sent him to the hospital.
The treatment Davis currently is on is not too bad, he said. Just this weekend, he ran 20 miles and then went to the exercise class that his wife, Deborah, teaches.
Davis wakes up well before the crack of dawn, at about 2:30 a.m., so he can run when it is cool in the morning. Other days, he bicycles or meditates.
"I tell people, 'If you had my life, you would do everything you could do, too, to stay,'" he said.
His cancer has spread from his one remaining kidney to his pancreas and his lungs, but Davis still is hopeful. His other kidney was removed in 1997, when he initially had his diagnosis. For a few years, he thought he kicked it.
Doctors told Davis five years after the initial diagnosis that the cancer had returned and was there for good.
Doctors said that most people at the same stage lived an average of 18 more months, and about one in 10 lived about five more years.
So far, for Davis it has been more than 11 years.
To help Davis contribute to the American Cancer Society, go to www.crowdrise.com/runmacdaddy. So far, Davis has raised more than $4,700.
Derksen, who is turning 42 on the day of the marathon, has had few health concerns since her open heart surgery about four years ago. She now goes to the physician for checkups on an annual basis, just to make sure that her aortic valve is in good condition.
Had doctors not caught the defect, it could have been fatal, as it was for actor John Ritter, for whom the foundation she is running for is named.
Ritter, the star of television shows "Three's Company" and "8 Simple Rules," died in 2003 when his aortic valve was torn as a result of a defect similar to Derksen's.
"There's a good chance that I wouldn't have been here had they not caught it," Derksen said.
Derksen will be running for "Team Ritter," a group of people raising money for the John Ritter Foundation, which is based at the University of Texas.
Derksen had signed up for the team last year, but the marathon was cancelled because of the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Sandy.
"All the factors combined, it's going to be very emotional when I cross the finish line," she said, noting that a lot of runners also will be thinking about the bombing at the Boston Marathon in April.
On top of that, she will be thinking about her appreciation for her continued health, another birthday and her first time across the finish line of a 26-mile run.
"There will be lots of tears I imagine," she said.
To help Derksen contribute to the John Ritter Foundation, go to www.crowdrise.com/TeamRitterINGNYCMarathon2013/fundraiser/amyderksen. So far, she has raised more than $1,000.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.