FORT MILL TOWNSHIP — Every day for seven years, Jeremy Blevins ran at least one mile. He ran on seven Christmas holidays, through all kinds of weather, and even on the day his daughter was born.
It started with him reading articles about every-day runners – runners who literally run every day of their lives. He was inspired to attempt a running streak, so he began on New Year’s Day 2006, hoping to meet a personal challenge to run every day for 50 years.
He kept to it. Then he hit a roadblock.
In January, Blevins learned he had cancer. Up until a few days before he had surgery to remove a tumor from his mouth, he continued to run daily. Blevins was forced to end his personal running streak at seven years, 13 days.
What happened next has been a source of inspiration for both his family and the community.
On the day of Blevins’ surgery, his wife, Shelley, planned to go for an early morning run. Shelley Blevins, who had supported her husband’s hobby for more than seven years, wasn’t an avid runner herself, but she prepared to take up running and continue the streak in his honor.
When she walked out onto the porch of her Baxter Village home at 6 a.m., long before most of the neighborhood had their morning Starbucks, a group of friends and neighbors waited to run with her.
Since then, Shelley Blevins has been joined by friends who are “Running for a Cause…Cause Jerm Can’t Run,” the title of a Facebook page created in Jeremy Blevins’ honor.
Blevins’ neighbor Shelley Howard-Robinson created the Facebook page where friends post daily when they have run or hiked, and sometimes biked or swam, in honor of Blevins.
Many post photos of themselves post-run. Sweaty, but always with big smiling faces.
“A sweaty 4 miles for Jerm.”
“Six miler for you, my good man. Thinking of you. Stay strong.”
“What better motivation than you, Blevins! Prayers to you guys all the way from Gamecock country.”
Jeremy Blevins wasn’t an avid Facebooker before the page was created, but now he checks the page several times a day.
In an email to the Fort Mill Times, Jeremy Blevins wrote, “It has been a huge motivator for me. Words cannot describe my appreciation for what everyone is doing.”
But anyone in need of motivation or inspiration should look to his wife, he said.
“With the treatments and continuous appointments she attends with me, it is amazing she finds the time and has the energy to run almost every day,” Blevins wrote.
The Blevins were hopeful that the surgery in January and subsequent radiation and chemotherapy would eliminate the cancer. But in mid-April, cancer was detected around Jeremy’s collarbone. The cancer continued to progress and by late May doctors determined that treatment at a facility in Houston would be the best course of action. The Blevins have been in Houston while Jeremy undergoes treatment there for an unknown period of time.
“He was a very unlikely candidate, and he has ended up with a very aggressive cancer. We want to come home. It’s not optimal, but we’re here for a reason, and we’re lucky to be here,” Shelley Blevins said.
Treatment has been “rough,” but Jeremy Blevins still manages to get on the treadmill some days, Shelley Blevins said.
“The comments from the doctor are that he couldn’t do any better than he is,” she said.
While Jeremy and Shelley Blevins are in Houston, their two children are being cared for at home by grandparents. The separation is difficult, Shelley Blevins said.
“We miss them like crazy,” she said, but is quick to say how fortunate she feels to have family helping them out, and to be at one of the top cancer centers in the country.
“It’s rated No. 1,” she said. “We’re very lucky to be here. I keep reminding myself that’s why we’re here.”
Daily running, inspired by her husband, has also helped her through the stress of being far from home.
“Running has completely, totally gotten me through this. I look forward to it. It’s a stress reliever. It’s totally motivated me, and hopefully other people,” Shelley Blevins said.
Friends are hopeful that it won’t be long before both Jeremy and Shelley Blevins are back in the neighborhood, running alongside their friends.
In the meantime, their friends will be running with the Blevins’ in mind.
“Everybody missed them. A lot. So much,” Howard-Robinson said. “It’s nice to be able to send them something positive.”