fb-pixel Skip to main content

For Julie Wade, ‘Running thru chemo’ is more than a mantra

Julie Wade was joined by her daughter, Margaret, on her run home from her final chemotherapy treatment.COURTESY WADE FAMILY

There is a small silver medallion threaded through Julie Wade’s shoelaces, snuggly resting on the top of her left sneaker.

Three words — “Running thru chemo” — are etched in black cursive in the center. The phrase is bookended by two light pink ribbons, the iconic symbol for breast cancer awareness.

She laced up the seafoam green sneakers Friday to run a route she knows better than any other — the 2-mile path to her oncologist’s office in Savannah, Ga.

She jogged that same stretch once every three weeks from January to April last year, throughout her chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer.


But Friday’s visit was a regular check-up, a fitting way to send her off before she runs in the 119th Boston Marathon Monday.

The 41-year-old University of Georgia graduate and her husband, Drew, will run in the marathon together in a city that saw the birth of two of their three children, and has been a source of motivation for nearly two years.

“I’ve just put it on my calendar and I was going to do it and I didn’t care what kind of shape I was in. It’s come at the perfect time,” she said last week by phone.

“[Monday will] be a little less than a year since my last chemo treatment. People think I’m crazy.”

The medallian reads ‘Running thru chemo.’JULIE WADE’S RUNNING THRU CHEMO FACEBOOK

* * *

She rattles off the numbers with ease.

“Oh, yes,” Wade said, “it is 3 hours 39 minutes and 59 seconds.”

That was her qualifying time in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon on Nov. 9, 2013. She made the cut by 5 minutes, less than a month after her first mammogram and initial diagnosis of DCIS, the most common type of noninvasive breast cancer.

“I was so close to the race and there was no way I was going to not do the race,” she said.


Wade didn’t cry upon hearing her diagnosis, but she was overwhelmed after crossing the finish line and was brought to tears, especially with Drew as a fellow finisher.

“It was a very special moment,” she said. “It was very powerful given everything that was going on.”

Twelve days later, she had a mastectomy of her left breast. During surgery, doctors discovered it had spread to the lymph nodes.

“Once they found that, it was a new game,” Wade said.

Chemotherapy treatments were planned. Radiation was set for six weeks in June and July. Follow-up surgeries were scheduled.

“We just went into fight mode,” she said.

Wade didn’t want to give up running or give up on running in the Boston Marathon. Running, she said, allowed her to have control over something in her life, giving her a much-needed sense of normalcy.

“My mom wanted me to lay in bed for four months, and there’s no way,” she said with a laugh.

She insisted on running to and from chemotherapy, feeling her pace slow down with each treatment. But the delayed effects of chemotherapy provided a window for the runs.

“I’d like to think that I’m in such good shape that I could run 2 miles in almost any situation,” she said.

Halfway through her chemotherapy treatment, she wanted to run in the Donna Breast Cancer Half Marathon in Jacksonville, Fla.

“Is it OK if I do this?” she remembers asking her oncologist, Mark Taylor.


“I’ve never had a patient ask me that,” he responded. “Just go and listen to your body.”

She finished in 2:01:43.

“I texted him a picture of me after and I said, ‘I did it.’ ”

On her final day of chemotherapy, April 30, Wade was with her three children — Henry, 11, Margaret, 10, and Etta, 6 — and her husband. Margaret jogged by her mother’s side on the way home.

The spring humidity in Georgia brought afternoon showers, dropping a torrential downpour as Wade approached her house.

“OK, this is a cleansing, a moment of cleansing myself from this,” she remembers thinking.

* * *

Wade, a civil litigation and federal criminal attorney who also serves on the board of education for the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, hasn’t been able to keep a rigorous training regimen. She has had five surgeries, with her second reconstructive surgery scheduled for May, in the last 17 months, but has continued to run in local 5 Ks and 10Ks with the occasional half-marathon. In this year’s Donna Breast Cancer Half Marathon, Wade clocked in at 1:55:28, good for third overall in the survivors race.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be like Monday because I’m just not as strong or as fast as I was,” said Wade, who is now cancer-free. “But I’ve just come to accept that that’s OK.”

She will pick up her bib number and race packet Saturday and take a bus tour of the course Sunday, all the while wearing the silver “Running thru chemo” medallion on her left sneaker.


“Three years ago if you’d ask me if I’d be running the Boston Marathon, I’d laugh in your face,” she said. “It just all came together.”

Follow Rachel G. Bowers on Twitter @RachelGBowers.