In January his wife and elite runner, Christine Fischer, was diagnosed with Stage 4, oligometastatic breast cancer, changing the couple’s perspective on the sport
Sunday's New York City Marathon is one of the biggest races of the year, and Christine Fischer plans to clock significant mileage — but from the sidelines, cheering on her husband.
Reed Fischer, who runs on the Tinman Elite team, will be among 29 professional male runners barreling down the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge Sunday morning as part of the 2023 TCS New York City Marathon. And Christine, an elite runner herself, will hit much of the five boroughs rallying alongside him.
“I have not missed a marathon of his yet, so I don’t plan to miss New York either,” Christine says in an interview with PEOPLE, seated alongside her husband at their kitchen table in Colorado.
But while their marathon plans look much the same as last year — when Reed came in 10th place, running 26.2 miles across the city in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 23 seconds – nothing about the couple’s year leading up to this point has been anything like the last.
Christine, 29, first noticed a 3.5 centimeter lump in her breast while pulling on a sports bra for a run last fall.
She was soon diagnosed with Stage 4, oligometastatic breast cancer, which had spread to her spine and sacrum.
The diagnosis — which has placed a permanent question mark around their plans of conceiving and birthing their future children — meant immediate and aggressive treatment with a combination of chemotherapy and target radiation.
She focused her attention on “attacking the cancer back.” Sometimes that meant the couple hit the slopes for a day of downhill skiing, and sometimes fighting back was just getting off the couch.
She had stopped running in the months leading to her diagnosis. But she laced up her shoes again as she started chemotherapy — sometimes running just half a mile. Running through chemotherapy was “the most grace I’ve ever given myself,” Christine says.
The couple — who met on a hike with friends shortly after Christine moved to Boulder in 2018 and spent their first date on a run around the reservoir that turned into a sushi dinner — started individualized talk therapy after Christine’s diagnosis to process the harsh reality of her cancer and the halt it made to their family plans.
“With cancer, everything feels like a loss of control,” Christine says. “And with all these things we’re losing, it was about finding things that we could control: like looking forward and saying, ‘Well, if I can’t carry our child for us, what can we do?' "
So they took a weekend trip to the mountains and made new plans. Before starting treatment, Christine froze her eggs, and the couple is now in the process of researching surrogacy options.
“Nothing peels a person back more than a diagnosis like this year,” Reed says, locking eyes with his wife. “We've both become very solidly reaffirmed in who we are as individuals, and especially who we are in our marriage and in the strength that lies in that bond.”
“We’re lucky for sure,” Christine says with a smile.
The cancer is “always in the room with us,” Reed says. An October scan shows that some cancer cells remain in her spine and breast. But with intense hormone therapy, the estrogen supply feeding her cancer has been largely shut down.
“The treatment is working and the cancer is shrinking,” Christine says, then taps the table: “I’m optimistic — and also knocking on wood.”
After her last chemotherapy session in June, Christine ran a local half marathon later this summer — cheered on by Reed and their friends — in what she called “a celebration of what my body can do.”
“That's been my shift from last year,” she adds. “Before it was about performance and being the fastest version of myself. Now, running is about so much more.”
Just days from the New York City Marathon, Reed — who is sponsored by Adidas and Tata Consultancy Services, which also headlines the race — says he has also taken lessons away from the past year that will inform his race.
“Choosing to race 26.2 miles feels like the easiest thing in the world compared to what Christine has endured this year,” he says. “She’s a tangible reminder that we’re often capable of much more than we think we are— until we’re put to the test.”
You can virtually track Reed’s progress Sunday at the TCS NYC Marathon, using this app tracker.
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Read the original article on People.