Drive down any main street in Mt. Greenwood, Evergreen Park or Oak Lawn and you’ll see trees and poles giftwrapped with purple and green ribbon signifying support for 12 year-old Mt. Greenwood resident, Emily Beazley.
She fought valiantly for four years to overcome Stage III T-cell lymphoblastic non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma but sadly on May 18 Emily passed away.
It broke my heart.
Another child, ripped from the world, by cancer.
For those in the midst of battling this unrelenting disease, find solace in knowing there’s an army of us defiant in our faith. We will never stop praying for healing or fighting for a cure.
Come join the fight!
Next week I will toe-the-line at the Eighth Annual Running for Hope 5K run/walk on June 7.
I’m privileged to be a mentor in the Pediatric Oncology Survivorship Transition (POST) Challenge, held at Advocate Children’s Hospital-Oak Lawn.
The POST Clinic offers ongoing screening for pediatric cancer survivors by scouting for late effects i.e. potential treatment complications.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle after treatment can be preventative of late effects. With that, the POST Challenge was born. It gives survivors the opportunity to train for the Running for Hope 5K run/walk with experienced runners. Grants supplied by Cure-It and Survivor Vision provide shoes, socks, race registration and the post-race party. All the survivor has to do is show up to train with their mentor.
Mary Marren,33, of Chicago has taken the POST Challenge since its inception seven years ago -- first, as a survivor and now as a mentor.
Marren’s lifestyle exemplifies the POST Clinic’s mission -- she makes physical activity a priority. Marren has run 25 5K races, one 10K, nine half-marathons and one full marathon.
“Once I completed treatment, my dad told me my next prescription was the treadmill,” said Marren. She rolled her eyes. “I hated that thing at first.”
Marren is a survivor of T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. It’s said to be among the most curable cancers.
“I was diagnosed at 17, the survival rate was 80 percent then,” said Marren, a Mother McAuley graduate from the class of 2000. “I was even in the hospital the week of my senior prom. The staff went above and beyond to get me released so I could go. I got dressed for prom right in the hospital.
“I wore this big bonnet because I had lost my hair.”
Marren was able to graduate on time that year. She went on to receive a Bachelor’s Degree from Illinois State University and a Master’s of Arts in Early Childhood from Saint Xavier University.
This is Marren’s fourth year being a mentor for the POST Challenge. Her mentee, 28 year-old Melissa (Missy) Doherty of Chicago has had two bouts with cancer. She said the second diagnosis came as a result of treating the first.
“It hurt to take deep breaths” said Doherty. She was reflecting on being an active 16 year-old volleyball player. “My pediatrician thought I strained a muscle in my chest. I knew that wasn’t it. I was taken to a chiropractor who discovered four dislocated ribs. He pushed them back into place.”
Doherty, a Palos Heights native, said the pain persisted. She received an X-ray that illuminated a tumor slightly smaller than a baseball behind her sternum - that’s the long bone in the center of the chest.
“My doctors were very positive,” she said. “After treatment, life resumed. I finished high school and started college at the University of Illinois as planned but, later that fall I started feeling bad again.”
A case of pneumonia was the culprit and it led to further exploration exposing Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
Trying to treat both the pneumonia and cancer simultaneously proved difficult for Doherty. “They needed to drain my lungs but there was a complication with the procedure. I ended up in surgery. I woke up with a scar from the middle of my chest to below my bellybutton,” she said.
Most in need of a transplant acknowledge the difficultly involved with finding a match. Doherty however, didn’t look far.
“My little 10 year old brother Bobby was a perfect match.” she said. “It was a surprise because siblings only have a 25 percent chance of being a match. One of the top children’s hospitals for bone marrow transplants was in Milwaukee so we temporarily relocated there.”
Doherty celebrated her 10-year remission date by running a half-marathon in Disney World surrounded by 10 of her friends.
“Having the support of positive people means everything. I’ve learned to ignore little things in life. I focus on the big picture.” Doherty said, “When I was sick, my family, the community and hospital staff really rallied around me. I felt like I would survive.”
Today, she’s an accounting manager in a manufacturing company.
I’ll have one more column to this Running for Hope series. Stay tuned and keep the Beazley family in your prayers as they celebrate the life and mourn the loss of their beloved, Emily!
And for more information on Running For Hope, visit http://www.runningforhope.net/