On a recent summer afternoon, 20-year-old Hillary pushed herself to finish an extraordinary journey. Hooked up to fluids and a mask to keep germs at bay, Hillary rounded a corner. As she did, onlookers broke into cheers. Confetti flew. Hillary’s mother hugged her, then members of her care team at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital gathered, too.
Hillary had just completed a marathon within the walls of the hospital.
The young woman has always been active, winning national awards for clogging, and dancing with her college dance team. Whether it was tap, jazz, ballet, or hip-hop, “dance was my life,” she says. Two of the three national clogging titles were won while she was receiving treatment for cancer at St. Jude. This latest achievement was no different. “I was told that being active while undergoing bone marrow transplant helped lessen side effects, so I decided right away I would walk a mile a day, 11 laps around the transplant unit,” says Hillary. “I’ve never seen treatment as something that would hold me back from being active and doing what I love to do.”
Having two unrelated cancer diagnoses back-to-back is rare, but rather than sit back, Hillary focused on the benefits of remaining active after her transplant. She walked daily to develop strength and endurance and to prevent fluid build-up in her lungs. Three weeks after her transplant, Hillary had walked 26.2 miles or 286 laps in the corridors of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. She is the first St. Jude patient to ever cover that distance while receiving inpatient care. With a marathon under her belt and her body growing stronger, Hillary looks forward to dancing again.
Other kids who want to get active can participate in the St. Jude Memphis Kids Marathon on December 7th, which supports lifesaving treatment at St. Jude for patients like Hillary. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing, or food — because all you should worry about is helping your child live. Kids 11 and younger can download training plans and an official mileage tracker to track their progress when they run or walk 12.1 or 25.2 miles before race day. After the race, kids receive a finisher medal and certificate of completion. For more information, visit stjudemarathon.org. — ASLAC/St. Jude PR