CARLSBAD, Calif. (KGTV) - A Vista woman has overcome a lifetime of adversity and is using that strength to honor her sister's memory.
Cecilia Sawyer plans to run in the Half-Marathon as this weekend's Tri-City Medical Center Carlsbad Marathon race.
Sawyer's sister, Yvonne, was an avid runner, even after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
After her sister passed away in 2016, Sawyer decided the best way to honor her memory was to finish the races that her sister loved.
"She was amazing," Sawyer says of her sister. "She loved running. I think, in one of the races, she fell and broke her arm. But she still finished the race!"
Sawyer had never been a runner, but this year, she applied to the Tri-City Wellness Center's Lucky 13 program. The program picks 13 people who have battled adversity in their lives and trained them to run the half-marathon.
"When we first came to the health assessment, I was scared to death to even get on the treadmill," she says.
Sawyer says the training has helped her overall health, and she's looking forward to the race.
As she trained, she thought about her sister a lot. She even wore a bracelet of her sister's as a reminder.
"She was my best friend," she says. "I want to make her proud."
Sawyer already has a lot to be proud of, having survived more than her fair share of adversity throughout her life.
She was born with a heart defect and had to have surgery when she was five years old.
In her 30's, a drunk driver hit her car.
"I had to have my whole left side rebuilt, including a hip replacement," she says. "That wasn't part of the plan!"
Neither was cancer. Five years ago, Sawyer was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I'm a survivor," she says, having been cancer free for years now. "It's been a lot to overcome. We don't ask for these things on our journey, but we have to accept them and overcome it."
After overcoming so much, Sawyer says running 13.1 miles doesn't seem like such a daunting challenge. She says her trainers and the Lucky 13 teammates have made it all worthwhile.
"We're all in this together, and we're going to finish together," she says.
The Carlsbad Marathon is Sunday, January 20th. The half marathon starts at 7:45 am.