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Months After Transplant, Braithwaite Finishes Half Marathon

September 9, 2013, 9:59 PM by Brady Mallory

Months After Transplant, Braithwaite Finishes Half Marathon

Thousands of runners at the Sioux Falls Marathon and Half Marathon could not wait to get to the finish line, but Dr. Tom Braithwaite has been waiting a long time to start.

"For me, running is sort of a - it's a part of the rhythm of my life," Tom said.

Running beside him, Tom's 13.1 mile journey included his brother, son and daughter-in-law.  He has had just as much support off the track.

"I got a running shirt even though I wasn't running.  He gave me a shirt to wear because I feel like I've been running along side of him," Tacey Braithwaite, Tom's wife, said. 

Tacey, Tom's sister, Mindy, and his mother were all there to cheer him on.

With that much fanfare, one might assume this was Tom's first half marathon.  However, Tom has completed several and has finished a full marathon.  This stretch of road is the latest victory in a race he's been running for the last ten years.

"There were so many days, when you felt, I remember telling Tacey, my wife, 'I don't know if I'm ever going to feel good again,'" Tom said. 

While battling Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma on and off since 2003, multiple rounds of chemotherapy essentially destroyed his bone marrow, giving him a disease called Myelodisplastic Syndrome.  KELOLAND News followed Tom as he prepared for a bone marrow transplant at Mayo Clinic in November. Ten months later, he is now in remission.

"Today is all about celebration.  It's not just about accomplishments; it's not about achievement.  It's just really about celebrating the blessings of good health again," Tom said.

"It was just at this time last year that we found out he had a match for his bone marrow transplant," son Matt Braithwaite said.  "The fact he not only got through that transplant well, but he's healthy enough to do something like this, which is running, which is kind of one of his supreme joys in life.  It's a pretty cool thing."

Tom and his family wore jerseys with the word "Victory" printed on the front as a way to create awareness for Be the Match, the National Marrow Donor Program. Even though Tom found a bone marrow donor, thousands of people do not.  He encourages everyone to get on the National Marrow Registry.  The test consists of a nurse brushing a cotton swab on the inside of your cheek.

After his transplant, Tom spent a few months at Mayo's facility for transplant patients.  He had to wear a mask to protect his immune system.  He has had his share of sick days, but he has made a tremendous amount of progress.

"If someone had said, even five months ago, I could do something like this, I'd have said, 'No way,'" Tom said.

Coming in at 2:04:34, he changed that no into a yes, as he crossed the finish line.  He and his brother grabbed hands and held them triumphantly in the air.  Tom immediately ran to his wife, and the two shared a long, tearful, yet joyous embrace.

"I realized the other day, since I was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, in my log book I have almost 9,000 miles of running.  There's been a lot of ups and downs for that.  Today those 13 were the most extraordinary," Tom said shortly after he finished.

Victory is not about where you start or how you finish.  Dr. Tom Braithwaite measures it by putting one foot in front of the other during the miles in between.

"I don't believe my faith is stronger because I got better.  My faith is stronger because I've had a greater awareness of God's presence in my life," Tom said.

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