On April 17, 102 runners will participate in the 121st Boston Marathon on behalf of MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC). These individuals support cancer care and research initiatives that enhance the quality of life for the hospital’s youngest cancer patients. This year marks the 20th anniversary of John Hancock’s partnership with the Mass General Marathon Program providing Mass General with 100 bib numbers for the race, allowing the hospital to raise more than $12 million.
For first time runner Stefanie Baker, Marathon Monday will be a family affair. She joined the Fighting Kids' Cancer... One Step at a Time team to honor her niece, London, who at a young age has faced a cancer diagnosis with bravery and determination.
What inspired you to join the Fighting Kids’ Cancer... One Step at a Time team?
My six year old niece London is being treated at MassGeneral Hospital for Children for medulloblastoma, a fast-growing tumor that develops in the base of the brain. She was first diagnosed in 2015, just shy of her fourth birthday and last fall, her tumors returned for the third time. Our family is so grateful for the clinical team at MGHfC who truly care about London and making sure all available options are explored to treat her appropriately. London’s courage and strength at just six years old has inspired me to run and raise funds for much needed research to finally beat pediatric cancer.
Is this your first marathon? What will you be thinking about on race day?
This is my first marathon, and I cannot be more excited to be running in my hometown! I consider myself a runner, but not a marathoner. There’s a big difference in the two and I’m training full time. Race day will be a mix of things - I’ll say ‘ok, you can make it to Mile 10’ and then challenge myself to get to Mile 20, where London will be on marathon day, then the finish line. I’ll have family and friends along the course for added encouragement, but getting to the MGH cheering section at Mile 20 will be a huge accomplishment. London, who’s not only my niece but is my patient-partner, doesn’t fully understand what I’m up to but knows she’s part of the team. My brother Jared, London’s father, has been one of my biggest cheerleaders throughout this journey. We talk after every “long run” and his encouragement means more than I can say. My husband and parents will be waiting for me at the finish line too and seeing them will get my through that final stretch to Boylston Street.
What are some lessons you’ve learned from London and from training for the marathon?
I’ve learned that I can do anything I set my mind to, physically and emotionally. A person doesn’t know what they’re really capable of. I never thought I could run a marathon and now, I’m doing it. I’ve never met anyone who has more courage and strength than London. I think of her every single time I hit the pavement and feel so blessed to be running in her honor. She gives me strength with every step I take - and her beautiful smiling face will get me to that finish line in just a few weeks.
This story is part of a series that MGH will publish in advance of the 2017 marathon featuring the Pediatric Oncology and Emergency Response Teams. In addition, individuals will run for the Miles for Mass General Program, which raises funds for hospital programs that are close to their hearts – including Botswana Oncology Global Outreach, Caring for a Cure, Cystic Fibrosis, Down Syndrome and the Lurie Center for Autism.