Friday, April 22, 2011

MGHfC patient first to join hospital marathon team

Running for a cause: Santanello, left, with Howard Weinstein, MD, chief of the MGHfC Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Unit and founder of the MGHfC Marathon Team/p>

On Marathon Monday, April 18, one MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) patient reached another milestone in her recovery from cancer. Kristin Santanello, age 19, became the first MGHfC patient to join the hospitalÕs marathon team. Santanello completed the race with a time of 5:08:06 and raised more than $14,500 for the MGHfC Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Unit, the same program where she is still a patient in remission.

Santanello was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was 5 years old. The disease was caught early, and after two weeks of intense chemotherapy, she was in remission. She continued to receive chemotherapy treatments for two more years, and the cancer has remained at bay. During her treatment, her father, Dan, decided to run the Boston Marathon to raise awareness of his daughterÕs illness. He was one of the first members of the MGHfC Marathon Team and ran in honor of his daughter for 12 years, raising a total of $300,000 for the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Unit. This year he passed the torch to his daughter, who plans to continue the family tradition.

"My dad ran 12 consecutive marathons in my honor so he could somehow feel what I was going through," she says. "The fact that he would put his body through one of the most grueling marathons made this much more than just a 26.2-mile run and reminded me about the importance of family and supporting loved ones."

Santanello was motivated by her father's efforts and always wanted to follow in his footsteps from Hopkinton to Copley Square. "I owe my life to MGHfC's Pediatric Hematology-Oncology staff," she says. "Knowing that all the money I raised will go directly to helping improve the clinic makes me feel like I'm giving back. I also want to be a role model for the patients. I have been in their shoes and know exactly what it feels like to go through chemo, bone marrow biopsies, blood transfusions, and to be poked and prodded with needles. I want to show them how their strength, courage and determination can make their dreams come true."

Santanello is currently attending Salem State University, majoring in Biomedical Science and minoring in Chemistry. She dreams of one day contributing to finding a cure for cancer.

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