"Staffer, survivor Hilary Hall runs second Boston Marathon
April 2011 was an auspicious month for Hilary Hall. The start of spring, which brings with it the revered tradition, the Boston Marathon®, marked 15 years of Hall being cancer-free, as well as the anniversary of her bone marrow transplant in April 1996 at age 12 for acute myelogenous leukemia. In anticipation of the milestone month, Hall laced up her running shoes. “When I heard about the marathon in October 2010, I knew that this was how I would celebrate,” she says.
It began as a one-time commitment. After a discouraging trial run (“After just a mile, the sight wasn’t pretty – hands on the knees, completely winded, my heart pounding,” she recalls), Hall began training under the guidance of Jack Fultz, who won the 1976 Boston Marathon and is now an advisor for the DanaFarber Marathon Challenge (DFMC) team, and other DFMC veteran team members. On April 18, 2011, Hall crossed the finish line in just under five hours. Through their DFMC participation, Hall and her teammates raised more than $4.5 million for Dana-Farber’s Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research, which was founded by Dana-Farber Trustees J. Wayne Weaver and Delores Barr Weaver in 1987 to honor Delores’ mother, who lost her battle with cancer more than 30 years ago.
Hall, a clinical research coordinator in Pediatric Leukemia at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center, ran the marathon in 2011 in celebration of her life after cancer. Along the route, she ran by a glimpse of her past – a girl with a face mask, the kind Hall wore for months after her transplant. As the girl’s parents
cheered, Hall waved and smiled. Despite the mask, she saw the girl smiling back. “It was at that moment that I knew this was not a one-time deal,” she says.
The journey to 26.2 Hall again began training for the Boston Marathon in 2012. However, after a 14.5-mile run through Lexington in February, she learned she was pregnant with twins, delaying her return to the marathon. For Hall, this pregnancy, like her first, was “a miracle.” Not only was she pregnant again despite oncologists and fertility specialists believing it was unlikely she would be able to have children due to her pediatric cancer treatment, but it was a natural pregnancy and twins do not run in her family. Twin girls Adelaide and Eleanor, born at 27 weeks and weighing 2 pounds 4 ounces, joined big brother Augustus after three months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Hall’s path from pediatric cancer survivor to marathon veteran is as extraordinary as her path to motherhood. When Hall and her family discussed treatment options 17 years ago, fertility preservation wasn’t their chief concern. More pressing was her survival. “Thoughts of not making it to my next birthday, let alone high school, overshadowed future plans for a family,” she says.
Today, as Hall prepares for the Boston Marathon on April 15, joining 19 DanaFarber staff and more than 500 runners on the DFMC team, she runs for Augustus, Eleanor, and Adelaide. Often asked how she can run the marathon with three children under the age of 3, Hall’s response is simple. “I’m running because
I have three small children,” she says. “Three small children who I never want to experience what I went through. This isn’t the only reason I run, but it certainly helps me charge up a hill when I’m feeling a little tired.”
Hall, who receives extensive follow-up care through Dana-Farber’s Perini Family Survivors’ Center, also runs for her patient partner, Nicole, who is battling stage IV-B Hodgkin lymphoma. “Like me, her cancer treatment has had lasting effects,” Hall says. “She is still working hard, more than a year after her cancerfree date, to get her legs working like normal. We’re hoping to run the last mile together and, one day, run the entire marathon together.” For Hilary and Nicole, survivor and patient running side by side, tethered by a shared experience, it will be a mile of hope. " Written by Naomi Funkhouser, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
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