This Helps Me Even More Than it Helps You

Written by Katie Jo Dixon

Yeah, I’m going to ride 100 miles on my bicycle—in one day—in the Hill Country next month. Why don’t you join me?

Better make that I am going to attempt to ride 100 miles, but I know that if we help each other, then you and I can do this! Honest. After all, I ran my first marathon only last month, 26.2 miles. That went rather well, if I do say so. I mean other than the crying, the nausea, the white-hot pain, and the overwhelming sadness… But you get over that stuff.

So, c’mon. What do you say?

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Photos by Katie Jo Dixon, Green Wheels Studio

I know this sounds like it’s all about me, but really it’s about how I learned to help myself by helping others. This bicycle ride we are going to do on April 25 is the Hill Country Ride for AIDS, and we’ll be helping raise money for 10 non-profit organizations that support thousands of Central Texans who live with HIV/AIDS.

Not a chance, you say? No way you can pedal a bike 100 miles? Ride as part of a team and select a distance that matches your ability. Or you can volunteer in other ways to support the event. But first of all don’t sell yourself short.

Barely a month ago I could not call myself a marathon runner. Ta-da! Today I am one. On February 15 I finished the Austin Marathon in four hours, 20 minutes, and more importantly, raised $1,000 for a cause that is dear to me.

The training was difficult. Getting to the finish line was even harder. In some ways it’s like giving birth. The pain seems unbearable, but the rewards are so worthwhile.

Childbirth, in fact, is what led me along this path. In my 20s, I liked to run, usually three miles or so. After my daughter, Lani, was born, my running routine came to a stop. I started getting intense sciatic nerve pain. Some days it was almost crippling. I needed ibuprofen just to get through the day. After several years of rehab therapy, doing exercises and working with weights, I was able to get the pain under control. But I was afraid to run.

Vanessa Escobedo, another Cherrywood neighborhood mom, and I would take our kids to Patterson Park. One day she suggested that we try running laps around the park. Slowly over the summer, she helped me to build my stamina. Last September once the kids were back in school, Vanessa said, “Let’s start increasing our miles to train for the marathon”. Vanessa already was a marathon runner, and she told me how she could raise money for different causes by asking people to pledge their support each time she ran a marathon.

One day KUT had a spotlight about Hand to Hold, the non-profit peer support organization that provides help to parents whose babies are premature or born with special healthcare needs.

As a nurse for neonatal intensive care units (NICU), I was sold at once. The radio spotlight about Hand to Hold grabbed my attention. At NICU we refer parents to Hand to Hold all the time. I thought, hey! I could help by raising money as one the marathon runners for Hand to Hold.

This meant everything to me. After all, hadn’t I changed careers to train for nursing, specifically to become a NICU nurse! Before nursing, I worked as a real estate and freelance photographer. Along the way I started volunteering to take photos for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, which tries to offer some comfort for parents suffering the loss of their baby.

Taking photos for the families at Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is what got me into NICU in the first place. I wanted to help families and their babies who have to deal with being in the hospital.

The intensive care unit is the great equalizer. It is a place where your background and income level does not matter. Parents with a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit often feel helpless, especially when their baby is in for a long stay and they don’t know how it is going to turn out or if they can keep on going.

Compared to what these parents endure, I figured running a marathon to support them did not sound so hard. But it really tested my limits. I remember hitting a wall around the 22nd mile. It was on Red River just north of 51st Street. My whole body was hurting. Every single cell was hurting. My energy was gone. I felt overwhelmed with sadness. I cried.

I know I never could have made it alone. My friends, my husband and our children all cheered me along the way. At the end I got this burst of energy, and I didn’t feel my body anymore. I was able to sprint through the finish line. It was magical.

It’s magical how helping others helped me more. So, c’mon. Let’s go for a bike ride!

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