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‘I Shine, Not Burn’: Oak Bay man running 100km to raise funds for cancer research

On Sept. 9, David Mackenzie-Kong is running an ultra-marathon in honour of his late mother-in-law

By Emily Vance
August 19, 2022
Community
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

‘I Shine, Not Burn’: Oak Bay man running 100km to raise funds for cancer research

On Sept. 9, David Mackenzie-Kong is running an ultra-marathon in honour of his late mother-in-law

By Emily Vance
Aug 19, 2022
David Mackenzie-Kong. Photo submitted.
David Mackenzie-Kong. Photo submitted.
Community
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

‘I Shine, Not Burn’: Oak Bay man running 100km to raise funds for cancer research

On Sept. 9, David Mackenzie-Kong is running an ultra-marathon in honour of his late mother-in-law

By Emily Vance
August 19, 2022
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‘I Shine, Not Burn’: Oak Bay man running 100km to raise funds for cancer research
David Mackenzie-Kong. Photo submitted.

On the evening of Sept. 9, David Mackenzie-Kong will lace up his shoes and begin to run. He’ll embark on a journey he’s been training for months for: a 100km ultra-marathon that he estimates will take him roughly 20 hours of continuous running. His partner, Anne Mackenzie-Kong, will be thinking of him and rooting for him every step of the way.

David isn’t just running for the glory of the race, or to beat a personal record. It’s a deeply personal journey that began just after Thanksgiving last year when Anne lost her mother, Gail Mackenzie, to a sudden onset of acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, AML is a type of cancer that starts in the stem cells of the blood. It’s an acute leukemia, which means it starts suddenly, and develops within the span of days or weeks. It differs from chronic leukemias, which begin slowly over months or years. AML is the most common type of leukemia found in adults.

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In Gail Mackenzie’s case, it came on quickly. On Oct. 23, 2021 Gail found out that she had cancer. By Nov. 22, she had passed away. It was just enough time for Anne and David to bring their two children to the Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock to say goodbye. Gail was 78 years old. Though she had previously survived breast and lung cancer, Anne said she was fit, active, and healthy.

“It's like not even a blink of an eye. You're just trying to figure out—what can we do? What’s out there? What kind of technology can we bring into this picture? Nothing. Not enough time,” David said.

Since then, the Oak Bay couple has been raising money for the BC Cancer Foundation. At the time of publication, their campaign “Shine Not Burn 100km” has raised just over $20,000. The motto comes from the Mackenzie family crest.

“It just gives you … [an] action you can take when you feel really helpless, or you’re grieving, right. To pass on these love notes to her, or to us, it’s just been amazing,” Anne said.

David Mackenzie-Kong and Anne Mackenzie-Kong. Photo: Emily Vance / Capital Daily

In addition to funds, the two are encouraging people to donate blood. Gail had been scheduled to begin chemotherapy, but Anne said she wasn’t well enough to receive it when the time came, and was admitted to the hospital instead. While there, she received several blood transfusions that were able to extend her life. After each one, Anne said she would feel significantly better. Blood donated by strangers was a lifeline that bought them just enough time together to say a proper goodbye. For that, their family is grateful.

“There's nothing else in the world that you would want more than that time that we all got to have with her,” Anne said. “It was just such an amazing gift. I felt like that was part of our takeaway, was [that] we need to give this to other people.”

David said seeing a container of blood in the hospital was a deeply moving experience, one that made him realize what exactly a donation of blood can do for a family in need.

“I looked at it [and thought] someone, some stranger, just gave me enough time,” David said.

Now, the two are working to give back to the systems that supported them through that difficult time.

“[We] have so much to be grateful for, that we aren't losing our houses to pay for this kind of care,” Anne said.

‘A journey of grieving’

The 100km race starts at Finlayson Arm, at 5pm on Sept. 9. It’s David’s first 100km run, and he estimates it will end in the early afternoon the next day. The course starts at Goldstream Park, immediately crossing the calf-deep water of the Goldstream River. After that, it climbs up Mount Finlayson, then along Jocelyn Hill to Munn Road, and back.

“It's gnarly, wicked, very technical, rooty. Hilly,” David said.

David Mackenzie-Kong on a training run. Photo submitted.

David will complete that 50km journey twice: first at night, and then a second time in the day to complete the 100km. He’s looking forward to the contemplative aspect of running at night.

“It's kind of a nice way to be at peace, run the trail, be at something at night. It’s challenging enough to really make it full, kind of like a journey of grieving. And one last hump to move over.” David said.

At the moment, David is training six days a week, and working with Nick Patenaude of Trinerds. The training is intense, and consists of lots of intervals on steep terrain mixed with recovery. This weekend, at the peak of his training, he’ll run back-to-back half marathons. He’ll also complete a 50km run at night to prepare his mind. After that the training tapers down.

It’s a deeply physical, but also deeply personal experience.

“This is something … that's kind of a statement to who I am. Whether it's spiritual, in my soul, or just who I am, right down deep, this is something that I felt like I needed,” David said.

The power of community

Throughout the training and fundraising journey, Anne and David have tapped into something deeper. They’ve realized through this experience that they aren’t alone.

Seeing the donations pour in with messages of support from family, friends, and strangers has been a powerful experience.

“It's not just me and my family—this is me and an entire world that have had similar situations, that have reached out and want to do good,” David said. “Through the connection of us reaching out, others have reached out too, and have made this whole journey just amazing.”

Anne said that the messages of encouragement have been particularly important to her dad, Ian. Gail was the love of his life, and they had recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

“It's just been a nice thing for him to see all this support and love coming in,” Anne said. “I feel like this has all been part of the healing process.”

On race day, David said he’ll be keeping in mind everyone who has supported their cause. He’s written down the names of everyone who has donated, and will be reflecting on those connections, and the love and affirmation they’ve felt throughout their journey.

Top of mind, of course, will be Gail.

“No matter what it was, she's always given me support,” David said. “I can see her smiling down in the moonlight, through the forest, congratulating and just kind of encouraging me on forward.”

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