Looking for the Finish Line

by Sandra Mitchell

The runner already is attracting stares.

He is wearing $20 Walmart sneakers. He has a four inch red mohawk, which sprouts from his head like the feathers of an odd bird.

On this cool St. Louis morning, the other athletes wonder what he is doing at the starting line of a grueling 26.2 mile run.

Runner number 1023 can explain his presence in two words. Earlier he has printed the black letters on a simple white sheet of paper. Before he begins the long run, he poses for a picture with the paper in his hand. It reads: SANDRA MITCHELL.

Just days ago George sent me an email: “I promise to hold your name every race until you are cured.”

“Geo” might attract stares anywhere. His eyebrows are dyed the same color as his cherry Kool Aid mohawk. He has a ring through his nose. The holes in both his ears are so big, I easily could slide a tube of lipstick through them. But when I look at the picture he has sent to me, I see something else. Determination. Compassion. Honesty.

geo2 Looking for the Finish LineGeo and I met on my recent visit to New Orleans. He was working at “The Hard Rock Cafe” in The French Quarter. We stopped in to buy a souvenir and left with a lesson in humanity. In the four minutes it took for my daughter to look at the t-shirt selection, Geo listened to the story of my diagnosis and prognosis. “I’m a marathon runner,” he said proudly. “I’ll run in your name.” We hugged and went on our way. I never expected to hear from Geo again. But a few days later the picture was in my e-mail box with this message: “You inspire me to find strength to run harder.”
New Orleans, St. Louis, Detroit, Savannah, he’s running a marathon a week. In his marathon bag, he always carries the paper with my name on it.

I struggle to understand why a stranger would do this for me. Cancer, I’ve learned, is a bigger cause that connects us all. He is simply one person reaching out to another. Geo also runs because right now, I can’t. The daily radiation treatments are beginning to take their toll. Some days the fatigue settles on my body like an unwelcome house guest. “Time for you to leave now I think, I want my old life back!”

I am only half way through my treatments, it is hard for me to see the finish line. But my support system now stretches across the United States, to a city that knows how to recover from devastation. Alone in the radiation tunnel, I imagine the sweet sounds of a New Orleans jazz trumpet, and Geo’s encouraging words: “When you have conquered this, we will do a marathon together.”

When I finally cross this finish line, I know my loved ones will be there to witness the accomplishment. In a crowd of thousands, I should be easy to find. I’ll be the one running hand in hand with the guy with the red mohawk.

More from Sandra Mitchell
  • http://propertycloud.co.za/2011/11/14/looking-for-the-finish-line/ Looking for the Finish Line - Property Cloud

    […] Read the full story and more. […]

  • Chuck Davis

    Sandy, I think there are a lot of people following your story but have not yet put pen to paper. We are all pulling for you. You will recover and yes I can see you participating in that Marathon with George. He has the strength for a lot of us. God Bless you and your family.

  • Tally Orange

    I know George, and have since he was in kindergarten. His heart is as big as the sky! If he is taking your cause personally, he will carry on with it forever…..guaranteed. George is an angel, and I support him 110% Good luck, Sandra, in your journey and your recovery! Tally Orange, Paw Paw MI

  • George Melichar

    Thank you for this wonderful blog. I never expected that my new friend Sandra would become one of my greatest motivators… I feel like the stronger/ faster I run… I imagine the weaker/ slower your cancer will get. I truly do look forward to crossing the finish line with you hand-n-hand. I ipicture the moment now not because of the finish; but to cross the line to your new beginning/ steps in life healthy & strong. Besides I have a great jambalaya recipe that will give ya some good ole’ spicy cajun flair if thats not enough ;) Geo

    • Matthew Reynolds


      I was only lucky enough to work with you for a couple of weeks, but I think you should know that your Hard Rock Cafe family is EXTREMELY proud of you and what you stand for. If you ever need anything, your brothers and sister at the Hard Rock Cafe in Myrtle Beach are here for you.

      You have a huge heart! Keep up the great work my friend.

      Matthew Reynolds

  • P.Jessie

    Sandra, Thank you so much for sharing your story…I will keep following your blog and keeping you in my prayers and as for George…you will never ever find another person in this world like him…when he embraces your heart…he doesn’t let go…He will fight for you in the only way he knows how..and that’s to run…He will run his heart out for you. I have posted your story to my home page and I hope you don’t mind….my friends have embraced you and George…we will all run with you one day!!!! Keep up the good fight even when there are days you don’t think you can….we are all there with you…<3

  • Patti

    George you are one amazing soul with a heart of an angel and have made many Rockers at HRC very proud. Sandra, as a survivor myself I believe faith and hope plus a great attitude is the majority of your fight. From reading this story I too can see you and George at that finish line and cannot wait! You will remain in my heart and prayers….you can do this. George, YOU ROCK!

  • Em

    The Hard Rock motto knows no limits… “LOVE ALL, SERVE ALL” .. “ALL IS ONE”
    We believe in something that is bigger than ourselves – what an amazing story Sandra & Geo!

  • LoveAll ServeAll

    Hi Sandra!

    Thank you for sharing this amazing story about connecting with one of our own, George. And as for George, he embraces everything we stand for at Hard Rock, To Love All Serve, Take Time be Kind and remember that All is One.

    Sandra, we wish you a full recovery and know that you are in our thoughts.

    The Team at Hard Rock International

  • John Ernst

    The definition of class is the constant and impartial display of integrity and kindness. George exemplifies this, and then some. I am proud and honored to call him my friend.

  • Angie Hood

    Thank you Sandra for sharing this story, it really touched my heart. I am praying for you and glad to hear that you are doing well. Wish I could hug you in person, but know your Tennessee Valley friends are rooting for you. Love you!

  • tracy Chaix

    I would like to report a scam that happened to me. I would like to warn others! How do I go about getting the news to know about it?

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