When Erik Poast was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in June 2017, his mother advised him to keep working during treatment — advice he took and credits for keeping his mind off the cancer and treatments.
Poast, a physician assistant (PA) in the occupational medicine department at Sharp Rees-Stealy, will run the San Diego 50 and Trail Marathon (SD50) on Saturday, Jan. 13, just six months after his diagnosis and a little over two months since receiving a clean bill of health.
Poast has been an avid runner most of his life, running track and field in high school and running in every country he has lived in or visited after college, including Australia and Japan.
“Running is my respite. I like to run to clear my mind,” Poast says.
But the side effects of cancer treatment left him in no shape to continue to run.
After receiving surgery to remove one of many enlarged lymph nodes above his left collarbone in June, he underwent daily radiation in July, opting to use his lunch break to receive the treatments at Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion. His last PET (positron emission tomography) scan on Oct. 31 was negative and his doctors gave him the good news that he was in remission.
As soon as the treatment side effects — fatigue, persistent cough, heartburn — subsided, Poast resumed his running training, putting in regular long treks to prepare for the marathon. The SD50 is a 50-mile course that winds its way through San Dieguito River Park and past Lake Hodges.
“I’m hoping to not only finish this year, but do better than before,” says Poast, who ran the marathon two years ago and finished only minutes before the cutoff time of 13 hours. “Knowing that other cancer patients are not as lucky keeps me driven.”
While the marathon does not have a charitable component, Poast is raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on his fundraiser page. It’s a charity he has raised money for in the past, but now with a personal connection, one he feels even more passionate about supporting.
Poast says getting back into running after his diagnosis and treatment is the embodiment of what he learned through the ordeal.
“The whole experience with my diagnosis taught me that life is delicate and it could end at any time,” Poast says. “So live and do as much as you can while you’re here.”
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