After finishing a brutal training run, Paul Montuori asked himself why any sane person would train for a marathon in Bolivia. "On a whim, I told my brother and sister-in-law that I would attempt to run a marathon with them. Little did I know at the time, how hard it would be. My legs were sore and I realized that I don't even like to run." One day later Paul had a purpose and an inspiration.
Driving six hours in one day each weekend to find a good altitude did not sound logical to Paul, so he began searching for a place to spend the night. However, no one was willing to board his hyperactive running partner: his Labrador retriever.
The last place he checked was "La Senda Verde Refugio Natural". This is where he met Vicky Ossio, the owner.
Paul told Vicky why he needed to come every weekend, she then asked him to surprising questions: Why are you running? "Even though I had contemplated this question in my mind many times on those long training runs, I still did not have an answer. I replied with a meaningless response."
Vicky then asked, "Will you run for my daughter?" Paul was speechless.
Before he knew it, Vicky, an active LRG member had run to her car and returned with several LRG brochures, "She proceeded to tell me that her daughter had been recently diagnosed with a rare cancer. As tears ran down her face, Vicky told me Carolina's story of her diagnosis in January 2006 and how the charity on the brochures were like angels sent down from heaven. I tried to console her, but I felt helpless and I did not know what to do."
But Paul did know what to do, "Driving away, I felt like something in me changed. I realized that my problems were insignificant and petty compared to the problems that Carolina faced everyday. One week later I had an answer for Vicky. ‘We want to run for your daughter.'"
When Carolina Ponce- Williams found out about Paul and her mother's idea she was stunned, "[My husband and I] were both shocked. I showed him the website and he got very excited!"
When she was diagnosed in January 2006, Carolina couldn't believe that her "benign tumor" was in fact, cancer. "I was in denial honestly. I think it took me about a month when it started hitting me. My mom was doing all the research for me. I didn't realize what it was. When I came to my appointment with my oncologist and saw people doing chemo it first hit me. I was like, ‘Okay, oh my god.'"
A year-and-a-half later, Carolina is feeling much better, "I feel great, I was very emotional in the beginning. When I received that email from Paul it was perfect in coming. Before I was a little bitter about being sick. Now I can help others."
She has also found the strength she knew she had inside, "Being strong, I used to think, was to have a thick skin and to survive anything; now I understand that surviving is really accepting the obstacles, learning lessons, and then...teaching them."
Carolina is bright about her future, despite Gleevec side effects affecting her immune system, "You have to enjoy every day without having to plan for the future. One thing I always tell people is ‘Stop and enjoy right now, enjoy the people you have, live in the moment.' I regret sweating the small stuff. It doesn't matter what you have, if you have a positive outlook you can have anything. I know that my positive attitude will hopefully one day cure me. I want to have kids and have grandchildren. I want to be here for all of that. I want it all."
Carolina is from La Paz, Bolivia and currently lives in Plano, Texas with her husband, Terrance. She is a fourth grade teacher and is looking forward to telling her grandkids how she once had to take a medicine called Gleevec.
Paul has set up a web page so that he and his family can use the marathon (which will be held in Long Beach, Calif. on October 14, 2007) to raise money for the LRG. Please go to http://3montys4cure.pledgepage.org/ to view the page. Paul, his brother Chad and sister-in-law Kira have set a goal of $10,000 to be raised. "Even though it is high it is important to shoot high and think big and actually make a difference. If we give $10,000 it can actually make a difference in something. The key is encouraging people to donate because we are not going to be able to do it alone, we have to extend and encourage other people. I think that we will make the dent. Money talks. Money drives everything."
You can visit the Long Beach Marathon's page at http:// www.runlongbeach.com/site5.aspx
If you are interested in donating to the LRG in the name of Paul's cause please visit http://www.liferaftgroup.org/donate.html or send a check to The Life Raft Group 40 Galesi Dr, Suite 19 Wayne, NJ 07470