By Mark Conover & Sarah Lorge Butler , Runners World

Looking back, I realize now I was feeling more fatigued than usual in the fall. But at the time, it didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary. Life is always pretty busy.

I’m the Director of Track & Field and Cross Country at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, about three hours north of Los Angeles. I’m about to turn 59, married, and a dad to 12-year-old triplets. Although it’s been 31 years since the best race of my life—the 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials, which I won—I still like to run, at least 30 minutes a day when I’m healthy. So sure, a little fatigue comes with the territory.

But then I noticed a lump under my chin. I know there are a lot of lymph nodes through your throat and neck, so I went to my primary care doctor. That led to an ultrasound, that led to an MRI, that led to a biopsy, and a PET scan, and a diagnosis by mid-December: mantle cell lymphoma.

I’ve been undergoing chemo every three to four weeks since then, which I’ve been tolerating for the most part. But my final two rounds of higher-dose chemo require hospital stays. And I’m scheduled to have a stem cell transplant in June.

Let me say this first: My prognosis is positive. I’m on a protocol that has proven success for getting people into long-term remission. I’m looking at the stem cell transplant like going in for an oil change.

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