Returning from conquering the Chicago Marathon earlier this week, it’s difficult to believe that 63-year-old Bette Clark was battling breast cancer just a few years ago.
It happened in 2006, just after the Yonkers resident discovered the Van Courtlandt Track Club and completed her first marathon.
Having lost her own mother to breast cancer as a young child, the news was chilling to Clark.
The tumor she had was ‘hidden’ and multiple scans were unable to detect anything cancerous at first.
Treatments were successful in remising the cancer, following a year of what Clark described as ‘aggressive chemotherapy.’
“I lost my hair, I was always exhausted,” Clark said.
When first diagnosed, Clark wanted to remain focused on running to stay as positive as possible, more than that the running community she had lately been introduced to her reciprocated the same actions.
“During the treatments other members of the Van Courtlandt Track Club would check up on me and helped me keep focused, even before I had the strength to run they would go on walks with me, anything to help and keep my mind right,” the survivor added.
They even helped Clark come up with a metaphor to lift her through the intense chemo.
“In long distance running you push yourself mile by mile rather than sizing up the entire marathon, I started applying that to my treatments, if I could get through little bits at a time it would help keep my head focused,” Clark said.
After one of the more difficult years of Clark’s life, she wanted to do two things: keep running and help other women that have to endure breast cancer. She became a patient coordinator at both Lincoln and Jacobi hospitals, while also doing work with Einstein Bronx Oncology and the American Cancer Society.
More recently, she runs her own Psychology practice on the upper west side of Manhattan.
“I may not live in the Bronx but my life is certainly here,” Clark joked. In one of the support groups that Clark worked with, she learned that one survivor was writing their life’s story, which touched her personally.
“If having cancer taught me anything it is to be more adventurous and to take more risks,” Clark said. She mentioned little things in her life she had been reluctant to do like driving in the city had no longer been as bothersome.
On a more major scale, Clark has set out to run the six major marathons around the world. She’s completed: New York, Boston, Berlin, Tokyo, and most recently Chicago; all that’s left to be run is London, which Clark aims to trot next spring.
In reflection, Clark was amazed by how the Bronx and Van Courtlandt Park changed her life and the way she approached challenges.
“The camaraderie is like nothing else, we push each other,” Clark said as she recounted how the club’s supporters turned the small stretch of the New York Marathon in the Bronx into one of the most raucous cheering stations in the entire race.
Clark hopes to attend the 16th annual Making Strides of the Bronx, a cancer walk at Orchard Beach put on by the American Cancer Society on Sunday, October 21.