Maricela Arévalo Arce: What #LetMeBeYourLungs Means to Me
HOLA! My name is Maricela Arévalo Arce, I’m 27 years old and I’m from México. How am I connected to Pulmonary Hypertension? My sister, Sofia, has had this incredible disease since 2013. I call it an “incredible” disease because my family and I have been learning about life and have met great people since that year.
One of them was Christopher Field. I met him in Dallas, Texas at the PHA Conference 2016. I was amazed and so excited to hear the stories and experiences of Paula, from Team PHenomenal Brazil! At the end of the presentation I came to the Team PH booth and I started to talk and share ideas with Chris. The whole time I was just thinking, “PLEASE, I WANT TO DO THIS PROJECT IN MY COUNTRY!”
Just after I came back to México, I received an email from the team, and all the projects and ideas started to take shape. We started with the logo and then more amazing things came later! It was January 2017; I was not an athlete, I had never ran more than 3 kilometers, I had never tried a triathlon… this is where the goal began! The big race? The 70.3 IRONMAN in Cozumel, México. My motivation? SOFIA, MY SISTER!
I trained Monday to Sunday, two and a half hours every day. Today, I have raced at least 12 triathlons, foot races, swim competitions, etc. That is more than 160 kilometers racing for and being someone else’s lungs. Finally, the long awaited day was here! The half IRONMAN in the island of Quintana Roo, México, near Cancún.
This was a very hot and humid race, one of the most difficult races I’ve done. I started swimming 2 kilometers, and I made my best time ever! I was so happy running to the transition to ride my bike, but not ready to struggle 90 kilometers up the coast. In kilometer 80 I was devastated, my legs didn’t respond and I was crying. Then I saw my angel, my sister, shouting with inexplicable energy. I just thought, “I’m doing this for Sofi, please God, give me her energy to not give up!”
I left my bike at the transition, put on my sneakers, and got going! I started to run 21 kilometers, two rounds of 10.5 kilometers. I hate running- I’m the slowest runner you’ve ever seen. With all my heart and mind I ran down the sun, watching other athletes quitting and fainting- it was so stressful.
In kilometer 7 an IM official came beside me and said, “You’re the last one of the entire race, you have to quit right now!” I was so angry and disappointed, my mind was saying too many bad things, but still, I ran. In kilometer 10.5 just before the second round, the official gave me one last chance to quit. Disappointed and so sad I started to run slower until I saw Sofia at the finish line. I thought, “I have to cross it! It has been a long journey and I’m here because of her!” No matter if I was disqualified because of those 10.5 kilometers vs 102.5 kilometers I had completed.
Seeing my sister at the finish line was the most incredible moment I’ve ever experienced. The journey I have been part of is incredible- I’m so blessed to be someone else’s lungs. Team PHenomenal Hope and what it stands for cannot be better summarized than by the slogan, “Let Me Be Your Lungs”.
Since Sofia had been diagnosed, she taught me not to give up, to strive to achieve my goals, and always with a smile on my face. It’s the least I can do for all of the PH Patients, and now MY FAMILY. As they say at ARTERIA, a nonprofit organization in México, family is not only blood. Through Sofia’s diagnosis, we have discovered many groups of wonderful people who do not stop teaching me to live.
I am part of Team PHenomenal Hope México because I WANT TO DONATE AND GIVE my effort, my lungs, and my heart for my family, for my angels: SOFÍA, CRISTINA, LUZ MARÍA, ISAAC, MARCO, OLGA, JUANY, OSWALDO, BELÉN, LUPITA MUÑIZ, LUPITA HERNÁNDEZ, GABY, ALEJANDRA, WENDY, ADRIANA, ERIKA, EL POLLO, ROCÍO, MAYRA, VICKY, BERENICE, JESSICA… and many many more! Thank you for being my motivation not to give up through the journey! In every mile I race, you will be in my thoughts.
This journey hasn’t finish; I’m going to be back for an entire 70.3 IRONMAN! I WILL FINISH IT! So please, if you’re reading this and you’re a PH patient, I beg you just one more time: LET ME BE YOUR LUNGS!
-Maricela Arévalo Arce