Last Sunday, Stephanie Serrano-Osorio ran the Santa Cruz Half Marathon in 2 hours 2 minutes—well off her personal best time of 1 hour and 43 minutes. But it was still one of her most satisfying performances ever.
Serrano-Osorio just began a new round of chemotherapy the Friday before the race.
Serrano-Osorio, 31, was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer—a rare and aggressive type—in August 2010. Since then, a lot has changed for the mother of two and registered nurse. But one thing has not: Serrano-Osorio is still a runner and a competitor.
“It was not my best time but not my worst time. It went a lot better than I anticipated,” said Serrano-Osorio. “I’m just happy to be running again.”
Serrano-Osorio may be happy to just be running again; she cannot hide her competitiveness. According to Serrano-Osorio, as good as it felt to be back racing, it was a challenge to hold back during the race. She’d never run a race where she had not tried to run all out.
“It’s hard to run slow again. My body wants to run fast. It knows to run fast but I don’t have that built up strength to maintain at that pace anymore,” she said.
About 20 people from Team Steph were out on the race course to support Serrano-Osorio. The group of ffriends, family members and other supporters included close friend Jamie McMillan and Serrano-Osorio's husband, both of whom ran.
“It was very inspirational. To me, every time I run I think that this is like my cancer,” said Serrano-Osorio. “Sometimes you sprint towards the finish line, sometimes you have to walk towards the finish line but it’s just all about putting that one foot front of the other; always moving forward knowing that there’s people there waiting for me at the finish line.”
The inspiration goes both ways. McMillan said she ran the race for Serrano-Osorio and the result was McMillan’s fastest race ever. According to McMillan, Serrano-Osorio consistently provides inspiration to everyone around her.
“It’s her positive energy that inspires us and has given us a new outlook on cancer and life and love and family and everything good that we have.” said McMillan. “She’s been the one that any time there’s been bad news she’s been the one who’s been able to put a positive spin (on it).”
Medical costs and being unable to continue working as a nurse have put a financial strain on the Serrano-Osorio family. One part of Team Steph is a fundraising website set-up by McMillan. So far, more than $4,000 dollars has been raised to help cover medical costs and other expenses.
As Serrano-Osorio continues treatment as part of a new drug clinical trial she is making summer racing plans.
“I felt so great after the half I could’ve definitely kept going,” said Serrano-Osorio. “I’m thinking I might be ready for another marathon.”