By Rob Potter
HARRIS November 22, 2005 Jackie Duczeminski is a very determined lady.
Whether battling a terrible disease or running in one of the nations most famous races, Duczeminski meets challenges with a strong spirit and positive attitude.
She brings those same positive thoughts to her job at the Center For Discovery in Harris. Duczeminski, who lives in Middletown, has been an Occupational Therapist at the Center For Discovery for 14 years. She is also one of the centers program directors.
I want to improve the quality of life for the people I work with, Duczeminski said. I want to help them increase their independence.
On November 6, Duczeminski joined thousands of other runners at the New York City Marathon.
It was the sixth marathon she has run, but her first since she was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago. In May 2000, Duczeminski learned that she had breast cancer. Because her doctors caught the disease in its early stages, she did not undergo radical surgery.
I had chemotherapy for four months and radiation treatments for 35 days straight, Duczeminski said.
She continued working at the Center For Discovery through her treatments and her health continued to improve. By the beginning of 2001, Duczeminski was cancer-free.
Later that year, however, cancer took away two of Duczeminskis close family members. In May 2001, her mother, Loretta Hinkley, and sister, Mary Anne Yale, both passed away after lengthy battles with the disease.
After recovering from that emotional blow, Duczeminski was determined to maintain the active lifestyle she led before her own cancer diagnosis.
Although she did not run any races during her cancer treatments, Duczeminski tried to get out and run when she felt well enough to do so.
Running was something where I was in control, she explained. It was something I could do for myself.
Several months ago, she began training for the 2005 NYC Marathon. One of her favorite places for training runs was the Heritage Trail between Goshen and Monroe. By running the 9 and 1/2 mile track out and back, she was able to have a good 19-mile run. Duczeminski also ran on a smaller trail located behind the Discovery Health Center on the Center For Discovery property.
All of the training paid off as Duczeminski crossed the marathons finish line in Central Park in a time of 5 and 1/2 hours. That mark was just over an hour slower than her personal record time of 4 hours, 10 minutes.
I wasnt too concerned with my time, I just wanted to have the endurance to finish the race, she said. Also, I wanted to take it slow because it was 72 degrees and humid.
Duczeminski noted that the despite the unusually warm weather, the race was a great event. She said that thousands of people were lined up to support the runners as they made their way through the citys five boroughs.
When you got to Central Park, the people really cheered you on, she said.
After the race, I felt great, Duczeminski added. After finishing the last marathon before my diagnosis, I was flat on my back with leg cramps.
Since she her longest training run had been only 20 miles, Duczeminski said that she had a little difficulty with those last 6.2 miles of the marathon. She endured those final miles by thinking of her mother, sister and father, Jack Hinkley. She dedicated the race to her parents and sibling.
Duczeminski also thought about her two daughters, Jenny Higbie and Sara Phillips, and her other sister, Polly Roberts. She said that all three of them were instrumental in her successful fight against cancer. Roberts, whom Duczeminski called my guardian angel, accompanied her to all of the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. And even though Higbie and Phillips both live in Indiana, they both called their mother often to offer encouragement and support.
And Duczeminski said the support staff at the Center For Discovery was phenomenal while she was being treated for cancer.
Based on her success in the NYC race, Duczeminski is planning to run another marathon in 2006. For the next few months, she will be working on her endurance. For instance, last weekend she completed a 10-mile training run.
One of the races Duczeminski is thinking about running next year is the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. She noted that her father was a marine.
He was tough, but nice, Duczeminski commented. I think I get my positive attitude from my father. He wasnt a quitter at all.
The word quit is not in Duczeminskis vocabulary, either.
I want to continue to eat right, exercise and remain cancer-free, she said. I just take life day by day.