It was to be a time of celebration. Bills fan Marc LaFlamme had been cancer free for a full year after his last chemotherapy treatment in May 2011.
With renewed energy, he prepared to move into the healthy, cancer-free chapter of his life. Though “not really a runner,” he decided he’d conquer a half-marathon as he’d conquered cancer within the next year, and had already signed up for the 50 Yard Finish 5k race in June 2012 at Ralph Wilson Stadium to kick start his training.
But just three days after that one-year milestone, he found out his testicular cancer had returned.
“The doctors told me we needed to have the surgery immediately,” LaFlamme said. “It would have been the week of the 50 Yard Finish race, so I told them they had to wait, which they weren’t too happy with.”
So with his dream to run on the field inside Ralph Wilson Stadium in mind, he decided his cancer wouldn’t get in the way of an event that meant something to him not only as a fan, but as a survivor who would soon step into a second bout with the disease.
“I never let the cancer get a strong hold on me,” he said. “I knew if I let that win I would be done. This was perfect because I’ve been a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan.”
And even as a lifelong fan, LaFlamme had never been to a Bills home game at the Ralph. His father grew up in Buffalo and raised his son a fan in Dover, Pennsylvania, where LaFlamme still resides.
Knowing a long phase of treatments was around the corner, he and his family made the trip up to Buffalo for the race. After completing all but the last leg of the 5k, he made the emotional approach to a place he’d seen only on TV.
“When I turned the corner onto Bills Drive and got to see the stadium and the Fieldhouse, I knew I was within two minutes of running onto the field, and my heart went crazy,” he said. “Right before I entered the tunnel I had to stop and clear a few tears from my eyes because I knew I was going to hit that field and run where so many greats had run.”
He said of he thought of Thurman Thomas, Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, and other Bills greats who had played where he was running in that moment.
“When that sun hits you right about when you exit the tunnel and hit the field, it’s just amazing,” he said. “You get to run where your football heroes have run. To actually be there and look up and see all the video screens and flags and the big lights coming down, it was awe inspiring and humbling.”
To be humbled by the completion of his first 5k and on the field of Ralph Wilson Stadium to boot, he said, gave him a push to go into what would be a tough few months of treatment with optimism and inner encouragement.
LaFlamme is on his way to recovery and is excited to attend this year’s 50 Yard Finish on June 29 to cheer on runners like YOU through the finish line on the field.
Learn more and sign up today for the 50 Yard Finish 5k, half-marathon race, and kid’s fun run HERE to make your own memories where you’ve watched Bills greats make memories for years. We hope to see you there!