Kilometer #38

Posted on December 1st, 2011

Max and Stella. There is no off-season.

I have run five full marathons. Despite the fact that each one is unique and stands apart in my memory, during all of them I got to experience what I call the “Kilometer #38” syndrome.

After running 38 kilometers, you do not feel at your best. No matter who you are or what pace you have been running, I don’t think anyone is really comfortable at kilometer 38. Your legs and lungs burn, your feet kill, and everything else feels like it’s about to just fall of your body like the muffler on an old VW Bug.

Mentally, it’s also tough. If you have never run a marathon, you might assume that everyone is happy at kilometer 38, since you only have four more to go. You have finished ninety percent of the race. The rest should be a piece of cake, right?

Wrong. At least for me, those last four kilometers feel like another forty. And knowing that the pain will continue — and in fact get worse — can be pretty darn demoralizing. Last January in Tiveria, I had run the race of my life, but at kilometer 38 I was about to admit defeat. I felt I could just not face those last four kilometers. If it were not my friend Chaim running next to me, I might have stopped right there.

Despite all the fantastic news — and we are so aware of what a miracle we are seeing unfold — Stella is right now at kilometer 38. She is battling through another round of chemo that is really knocking her around. After the chemo, we have lots of tests to get ready for the surgery, then the surgery itself will be on January 1.

Yes, all of us who love Stella are dancing and singing with joy that she CAN have the surgery. But we are not the ones who have to HAVE the surgery. Already feeling low from the chemo, Stella is not looking forward to this very involved operation and the recuperation period after it. She mentioned to the surgeon how she was a “bit nervous” about the operation, perhaps looking for some comforting words or reassurance. Maybe he would tell her that this procedure was nothing to worry about, that it would be a piece of cake.

He just looked at her and said “Do you want to live?”

Well, it IS an answer.

While the rest of us are like spectators, cheering her on for reaching kilometer 38 in great form, none of us can really feel what she is going through right now. Chemo sucks. And it doesn’t really matter if it’s number one or number six. It just sucks.

It’s interesting. Time used to be the enemy. I wanted to slow time down or even stop it, so we could value every moment that we had. Now, I want time to speed up. I want her to leave chemo behind and quickly get through the operation. Now that I know a complete recovery is a definite possibility, I want us to get there right away.

But no matter how much you want to cross the finish line a few seconds after passing kilometer 38, it just doesn’t work that way. You have no choice but to somehow find some more strength and gut through the end of the race.

When Lance Armstrong said “Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever,” he was referring to both the pain of racing a bike through the Alps and dealing with grueling chemo sessions. And he’s right. I do know that no matter how bad I have felt the five times I have hit kilometer 38, they were followed by five wonderful moments of crossing the finish line with my arms held high.

And so Stella and I both know that one day we will dance and sing together and this whole chapter in our lives will be over. But right now, we have no choice but to deal with the pain and keep moving forward.

The Surgery is scheduled for January 1. What a way to start 2012.

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  1. rutimizrachi says:

    Not much comfort… but the only thing I can think to do is to reach into my bag as you reach K38, and pull out the two bananas I have saved for just this moment. “Here, kid. You can do it. Keep your pace. Breathe. See you at the finish line.”

  2. Raizi says:

    Though we were all thrilled to read the miraculous news of your last blog, I think we realized you still have quite a ways to go. Kilometer #38 reminds me of the legendary Heartbreak Hill of the Boston Marathon. Your analogy, once again, seems so apt. It’s as if we’re all “extras” cheering (AND PRAYING!) on the sideline but Stella’s the only one actually running. Since all my wishes seem to be coming out in cliches today, let me sign off with a cyber-hug and my new mantra: I know you can, I know you can, Please H-shem, get Tzuriya Kochevet bat Sarah past that finish line!

  3. Gary Swickley says:

    Yarden – Well said as always. Our prayers are with you and Stella.

  4. Carla Friedman says:

    So happy to hear this news. We are continuing to pray for a full recovery here in Toms River. You are both amazing.

  5. mush says:

    Bz”h the first day of 2012 will be the lowest and hardest for the year and the rest of your long lives together with us all your extended family, and out of the depths and pain of that day will come a speedy and healthy salvation. We are all with you atop hill#38 and will be with you as you climb hill#39 in a months time, and then we will all be waiting as you come steadily downhill to the finishing line!

  6. Fay Clymer says:

    Having been there and done that…know where you are in the process…we all have you in our thoughts and prayers…you and your MD are in Hashem’s hands…may HE guide you well…you are in MY thoughts and prayer….shalom and love:)Gershon’s Mom

  7. Rev. Rocky says:

    Words alone cannot express the feelings we share with you and your many many friends. I have been witness to God preform miracles on the operating table even before surgery and I know in my heart that God Himself will be guiding the surgeons hands as they find a way to remove this ugly disease from Stella’s body and restore the one we all love back to perfect health. God tells us that we are to ask and that we will receive so we must all continue to ask God for a miracle here.

    Blessings To The Frankl Family,
    From Drumright, U.S.A.
    Rev. Rocky & Carol & Cameron………

  8. Many blessings and prayers for you all from Santa Fe through Har Habait to Hashem’s ears! Professor Gabizon and his staff should all be blessed with great success on your behalf and merit, along with all the sick and injured of Israel.

  9. Paul Goldstein says:

    January 1 used to be a special day for me because it was my Mom’s birthday. Now that she’s gone (she had 92 birthdays), Stella’s giving me another reason to have this day special. Thanks, Stella.

  10. rachel himelstein says:

    Stella,as always your example is the one leading us, and we are ever guided by Yardens insightful words. We can only pray and continue to be on the sidelines trying to be there in whatever way works for you. be strong as you gather your strength and energy for the next challenge. we love you as always.

  11. Agi says:


    Every time I read your post I end up crying.
    The feelings range from sadness to joy/hope.
    You have an incredible gift of allowing people to participate in what you feel in your writing.
    May this gift bring you and your family all the blessings you inspire in us to send you for a full healing and lots of good times to share.
    B’Bracha, Agi

  12. Judy Simon says:

    I’m not a cyclist, but I have given birth to 6 children ba”h. What you describe as K38 sounds suspiciously similar to that moment in the birthing process right before the urge to push. I call it the urge to quit. That strong desire to set the clock back 9 months and roll over. There’s no way on this earth you’re going to actually go through with giving birth. Too tough for any human to handle. And then, miraculousy, time speeds up, things get harder and more painful, but just for a sharp moment, and you end up with joy and miracles.
    Here’s wishing Stella and you an easy labor and delivery, a speedy recovery, and a smooth path to joy and miracles!