Despite her doctor’s wishes, 39-year-old Karen Kelly, who is undergoing chemotherapy, walked 26.2 miles on Sunday in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk to raise money for cancer research.
Kelly, of Framingham, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. Two years later, the cancer returned, spreading to her bones and liver.
“I’m fighting this until the very end,” Kelly said. “And as long as I’m able, I’m going the 26 miles.”
Approximately 8,500 people walked anywhere from 3 miles to the full 26.2 along the Boston Marathon route on Sunday, raising more than $7.5 million to benefit patient care and cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk has raised nearly $80 million since it started in 1989.
‘The common ground is that cancer has touched their lives directly or someone they love.’
Kelly, who has an 11-year-old daughter and still works full time, said she feels emotional during the walk “just knowing that every year this could be your last.”
She does it not only for herself, but for her daughter.
“I just want to show her that you can stay strong,” Kelly said.
Ann Beach, director of the walk, said the event unifies people whose lives have been affected by cancer.
During the walk there are “moments of euphoria, and moments of despair; at the end you feel as if you overcome something,” she said.
“The common ground is that cancer has touched their lives directly or someone they love,” Beach said.
Mike and Debbie Bicttimer, both 50, traveled from Columbus, Ohio, to walk in honor of their nephew, who died at age 3. They had 70 members in their group, raising a total of $57,000.
“It was fantastic with the group: a great spirit of camaraderie,” Mike Bicttimer said.
Marie Campbell, 67, walked this year for her granddaughter, 6-year-old Siscilia Campbell.
Campbell said that when she found out her granddaughter had cancer at the age of 2, she was heartbroken.
“A lot of tears were shed,” Campbell said. “In the beginning you don’t know what the outcome is going to be.”
Siscilia has been in remission for the past four years and participates in many Jimmy Fund programs. Siscilia said she likes the Jimmy Fund because she “can help other kids beat cancer.”
Katie and Dan Strand, 25, both 25 and of Ashburnham, walked for their 14-month-old son, Gavin, who was diagnosed with leukemia a few months ago.
Strand said her son’s form of leukemia is very treatable, and he has been going in for treatment less frequently. Although their minds are more at ease now, she said, they had a lot of feelings at the completion of the walk.
“The finish line was more emotional, because we had him walking across with us,” Strand said.
To date, they have raised $8,000, and had 20 people with them who were also walking for their son.
“We always wanted to be helping out other kids, not just Gavin,” Strand said.