Friday, April 5, 2013

Following in her father’s footsteps

A HELPING HAND: Michael and Elizabeth at the 2007 Boston Marathon

For Michael Shea, his fifth time running the Boston Marathon as part of the Mass General Marathon Team will be unique because he will have his inspiration – his daughter Elizabeth – running alongside him.

In 2001, Elizabeth was diagnosed with histiocytosis, a form of cancer that caused tumors to grow in her bones. Following months of treatment at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, the then-11-year-old was in remission by the end of 2002. Michael wanted to find a way to give back to the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Unit and show his gratitude to those who cared for her during her battle. “They said we have a marathon team, and I laughed and said, ‘Good for you, I’m not a runner. I’ve never run more than five miles in my life,” recalls Michael.

Instead the Shea family enrolled Elizabeth in the team’s Patient Partner Program in which a team member was assigned to run in her honor. However, Michael says, while cheering for the team during that 2003 marathon he realized that he not only wanted to – but could – be the person running in her honor. “So that day I decided to do it,” he says.

The next year he joined the MGH team – and did so again in 2005, 2006 and 2007. During his last marathon, Elizabeth, then 15, joined him at Mile Marker 20, and they ran the last six miles together. They crossed the finish line holding hands – an inspirational moment for Elizabeth. “I was a sophomore in high school, and it was the first time it really resonated that I wanted to do this for real some day,” she says.

Now 21 and a senior at Babson College, Elizabeth is celebrating her 10th anniversary of being cancer-free by doing just that. On April 15, she will follow in her father’s footsteps as a member of the Mass General Marathon Team – running alongside her dad. “I have a great picture of us crossing the finish line in 2007, and I’m looking forward to having the real deal this year,” she says.

For more information about the Mass General Marathon Team, visit

Read more articles from the 04/05/13 Hotline issue.

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