What inspired you to join the Fighting Kids’ Cancer... One Step at a Time team?
My time in Boston and at the hospital, especially as someone who’s interested in medicine and applying to medical school. It was amazing to see how the city of Boston and MGH came together after the 2013 marathon bombings.
Last year as a junior, I saw firsthand how the bombings have shaped Mass General’s work. I interned in Emergency Medicine Department at Mass General on the National Emergency Department Inventory Project, a national initiative to create an accurate database of all emergency supplies at hospitals across the country.
I have also had the unique experience of not only being a cancer patient, but also as someone whose family was greatly affected by cancer. I was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) diagnosis at age 12, which was a formative experience because I was on the cusp of becoming an adult or thinking about becoming an adult. When I had cancer, I developed pneumonia and was in a coma for four days. Just before my diagnosis, I had joined a swim team and was really coming into myself as a swimmer and an athlete. Seeing how illness affects people around you inspired me to run the Boston Marathon and it changed my relationship with my own body. Cancer had cut back on just about everything, including my athleticism and caused atrophy in my muscles. It really changed how I treated by body and how I thought about it.
Is this your first marathon?
Yes. I’m up to about 15 miles now and I’m working toward 18. I started my marathon training in November 2016. Unofficially, though, I started running every day after school in high school. I’d get home and run three miles. In college, I read a book called “Born to Run” that discusses how running is deeply rooted in our history as humans. Humans used to run long distances when hunting for food. The average length of a run was that of a marathon. We obviously don’t do that anymore, but it was so interesting and enlightening to me how running is built into human DNA.
What will you be thinking about on race day?
I’ll be thinking about the sense of community that running and exercise builds. Harvard has a tradition where every year on the night before finals, students run a lap around the yard to let off some steam, burn some energy and to come together as a student body. It feels different to run by yourself versus in a crowd. Running with other people brings a different atmosphere and liveliness.
I’ll also be thinking about the opportunities I’ve been given as a child whose parents are immigrants from Tajikistan. I’m alive because of the medical care I received in America, even though I was born here. We as people have a lot of good to offer and should be more rational and thankful for what we have.
What are some lessons you’ve learned from your experience with cancer and from training for the marathon?
People are capable of more than they think. With marathon training, some people worry that they’re never going to be prepared enough. I see this in my own life experiences. Sometimes, you have to just go out there and do it. I’ve pushed through my challenges and learned from them. Marathons are a commonly recognized and completed test of human limits. I never felt prepared in other tasks, but I’m going to rise to the occasion to cross that finish line.
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.