For Bianca Martinez and her best friend Rachel Hunt, running the Boston Marathon always seemed like a distant dream. The running duo – Martinez an aspiring physician and Hunt an aspiring nurse – were known for their 5 am runs during their undergraduate years at Texas A&M University. Their many late nights together included studying, drinking too much coffee and talking about running. Those runs and late nights unfortunately ended the day after Hunt’s 23rd birthday, when she died from brain cancer.

“It was Rachel’s dream to run the Boston Marathon,” says Martinez, who will run her first marathon as part of MGH’s Pediatric Hematology & Oncology Marathon Team. “I can only hope that by running this marathon, I am doing her an honor, as well as helping the millions of children who are currently battling cancer.”

Thanks to a partnership with John Hancock, the Fighting Kids’ Cancer, One Step at a Time team has raised more than $14 million in recent years to support the pediatric hematology-oncology program at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. The money supports cutting-edge research and clinical studies to help improve cure rates and provide the best treatment possible to the hospital’s youngest cancer patients.

“During our undergrad years when the Boston bombing occurred, I remember Rachel and I running as far as our legs could take us,” says Martinez. “The day following the marathon, we were wearing our blue and yellow attire to represent Boston and all those who we had lost. I now find myself living in Boston, a place that Rachel dreamt of living and working, and no matter where I go, I take her with me.”

Martinez works at a biotech company whose mission is to advance cancer care by helping physicians match patients to more treatment options as well as accelerating the development of new therapies through genomic profiling. Her goal is to get into medical school and eventually become one of those physicians.

“The most significant lesson I’ve learned so far from friends I have lost to cancer is to never take anything for granted,” Martinez says. “So often we hear this phrase, but it is not until you lose something so valuable that you truly understand the meaning. Live each day to the fullest and never be afraid to chase your dreams.”

In addition to the Pediatric Hematology & Oncology, Emergency Response and Home Base teams – sponsored by John Hancock – runners also will support the Run for MGH team, which raises funds for hospital programs close to their hearts, including Caring for a Cure, cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, the Lurie Center for Autism and the Mootha Lab.

“Originally, I was inspired to run the Boston Marathon after the bombings happened in 2013. At the time, I honestly never thought I could run a marathon. I finally felt ready this past year to tackle the historic Boston route and I wouldn’t have it any other way than running for Mass General Hospital’s Emergency Response Team. I’ve learned that the running and training aren’t about the running itself, but what and who you are running for. This race, I’m not running for me, I’m running for the city of Boston, MGH and all first responders.” Haley Van Orman, Military Police Officer in the United States Air Force, Emergency Response Team, second marathon

“I was inspired to join the 2019 Mass General Marathon Team for Pediatric Hematology & Oncology after watching and cheering on my wife at the 2017 and 2018 Boston Marathons. I proudly ran the 2016 Boston Marathon, but I swore I was ‘one and done’. After watching my wife and experiencing the excitement of Marathon Monday from the other side of the barrier, it gave me the itch to get back out on the course. Simply stated, I really don’t like running, but I HATE cancer.” Mike Hastie, Pediatric Hematology & Oncology Team, second marathon

“First responders saved my uncle’s life and helped my mom through her scary moments with diabetes. They saved my life when I was in my addiction. Without them, I wouldn’t be here today. So far, my marathon training has mirrored my life. Right now, I’m struggling to slow down. I’ve learned to be patient and I see progress. If I could overcome addiction, I can do this race, and I am overwhelmingly grateful and humbled to represent the Emergency Response Team.” Matthew Danto, Emergency Response Team, first marathon


Read more articles from the 02/22/19 Hotline issue.