Overcoming the chaos in Boston with faith and determination

5/3/2013

By GLENN HANNIGAN
     Sina Noori is a fighter.
     While waging a life-and-death battle with cancer, she has refused to yield an inch. While facing spiritual challenges she has responded in faith, recently being baptized by Pastor Steve Wood at Mount Pisgah.
     If there is one consistent thread in Noori’s life, it is that she finishes what she starts.
    On April 15 in Boston, she did not get the chance.
     Noori was approximately a half mile away from finishing the world’s most famous marathon when a bomb destroyed what had been a sun-splashed, near-perfect day. Shortly afterward, a second explosion added to the chaos. Noori’s husband, Mike, was waiting in the stands near the finish line. In addition, there were various friends from the Alpharetta area on hand for the event.
     “I was so worried, I felt like I was in a cloud of confusion,” Noori said. “I knew my husband and friends were waiting for me at the finish line, but I could not tell what was going on.”
     In the pandemonium, a spectator handed Noori a phone so she could call Mike. He was fine. Everyone in their extended group was fine. But there were some close calls.
     Stacey Hurd, a friend and running partner from Mount Pisgah, was nearing the final curve to the finish line, a few hundred yards ahead of Noori, when the first bomb detonated. Though Hurd did not know at the time, the leg cramps she experienced near the end of the race were a blessing, causing her to break stride and walk, keeping her a safe distance from the deadly explosions.
     The exhilaration of finishing the marathon was replaced with confusion and fear.
     “We were forced to stop just short of the finish line,” Hurd said. “It was a terrible feeling. My heart sank. I was worried about the family and friends waiting for us.”
     Another friend and accomplished runner, Amy Bartholomew, had finished the race almost an hour before the blasts. She was waiting for Noori inside a race tent near the finish. Her husband, Bryan, was waiting in the stands with Mike.
     Noori, Bartholomew, and their husbands had been invited as special guests to the marathon and given VIP treatment.  Officials from John Hancock, sponsor of the Boston Marathon, extended the invitation after reading an online blog that Bartholomew had written about Noori’s brave battle with breast cancer and devotion to running.
    Noori was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in 2011, just four weeks before she was to compete in the Florida Ironman, a grueling event that combines a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike race and a 26.2-mile run. Doctors told her that due to the urgency of her condition, she would have to skip the race and begin treatment immediately. Noori did not listen.
    “I told them I had to race,” she said. “I had trained too long and too hard.”
    Noori competed in the Ironman, finishing in 13 hours, 14 minutes, 27 seconds.
    Through the ensuing chemo treatments, double mastectomy and radiation that followed, Noori barely took a break from training. She ran and rode her bike faithfully. When daily radiation treatments weakened her lungs and made breathing difficult, she took hot yoga. Her lungs improved.
    “I was determined not to stop exercising,” she said. “I did not want to be stuck in bed. I had to keep moving.”
     While cancer took a heavy physical toll on Noori, along with her hair, the emotional and spiritual ramifications were a different story.
   “Cancer is one of the best gifts I have ever received,” she said. “I did not get depressed. I found out how much people love me. I found out how much I love God. I am so blessed.”
   Noori, who was born in Iran, grew up as a Muslim. It was her close friend Stacey Hurd who first invited her to Mount Pisgah.
    “These Christian people gave me love and took care of me,” she said. “I had a sense of peace as my relationship with God grew. I know I am a different person now, a better person. I am more loving and softer, a better wife and a better role model for my child.”
     But that softer core is wrapped in a steely resolve. Noori is not one to leave something unfinished.
   “I did not get to complete the marathon,” she said, “so, I am planning on returning next year. I want to finish what I started. I can’t quit now. I feel like I have angels surrounding me.”
 


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