A petition started with ordinary loose-leaf paper, numbered from 1-200. A patient was on a mission to fill those spaces with enough signatures for Elizabeth Duquette to run the 2017 Boston Marathon. A strictly recreational runner, Duquette was unsure if she was up to the challenge.
A few days later, Duquette, a personal care attendant (PCA) in Ellison 18, learned that her patient had passed away before he could collect signatures. To honor her patient and other children living with cancer, Duquette is running as part of the Fighting for Kids’ Cancer... One Step at a Time team at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) in this year’s Boston Marathon. The team was founded in 1998 by Howard Weinstein, MD, chief of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at MGHfC, to raise essential funds for pediatric cancer treatment and research.
“When he asked me about running the marathon, I said, ‘A marathon? I don’t think I can do that.’ Twenty-six-point-two miles was never in the plans,” said Duquette, a native of Chicago, Ill., and fourth-year student studying behavioral neuroscience at Northeastern University. “The first time I went back to Ellison 18 after he passed away, I was walking through the halls and I had this realization that I really did want to run the marathon. I signed up that same day and got my bib number shortly after.”
Duquette started training last spring when she became a PCA through Northeastern’s co-op program. “I’m up to 14 miles now, so I’m focusing on building up my endurance,” she said. “What I’ll be thinking about on race day is crossing that finish line, knowing that my efforts help support pediatric cancer care at the hospital. I did it myself and completed a marathon, which is such an accomplishment.”
When her patient started to collect signatures, Duquette remembers his motivation and joy in encouraging everyone, from nurses and doctors to fellow patients, to fill in his petition. “What I’ll always remember about him is how infectious he was in every sense,” said Duquette. “His personality, his smile, his laugh. He was such a bubbly, bright human being.”
That infectious energy is something that Duquette has taken to heart – and will take to the marathon route. “What I’ve learned from my patient and from training is, if you’re able to do something, you should,” she said. “Life is too precious and every mile is incredible.”