April 12, 2019 by Tammy Howell
North Country HealthCare’s , Theresa Salvatore, FNP, will run the 2019 Boston Marathon in April.
Theresa will run the Marathon in honor of her father, a recent cancer survivor. And for those lost to this relentless disease.
After her father’s experience with cancer, Theresa has a whole new outlook on preventive care for her patients.
Theresa Salvatore, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, is a family nurse practitioner at North Country HealthCare. Theresa cares for patients at North Country HealthCare’s Winslow and Flagstaff locations. She is passionate about preventive medicine and enjoys the community health center environment, where she can treat a variety of patients with an array of conditions.
I used to hate running. In high school, as a basketball player, I viewed it as punishment. Somehow though a couple friends suckered me into a half marathon when I was twenty-three. While training for that first race I found myself enjoying it and craving my next run. Even before the start of that first half marathon, I was already signed up for another one. Less than two years later I signed up for my first full marathon. I survived that too and finished in a respectable time. I was hooked. The Boston Marathon felt like a distant possibility and I told myself, “maybe someday.”
My dad, Andy, had already run Boston in 2005. He was a dedicated marathoner and qualified for the 2018 Boston Marathon and won his age group at the 2016 Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank Marathon. My dad is a little bit of a health nut, so it came as a shock to everyone when he was diagnosed with metastatic oropharyngeal cancer soon after that amazing run in Detroit. At his first oncology appointment he told them, “I’m running the Boston Marathon.”
I realized quickly that I needed to run with him. My dad is very stubborn and reluctant to even admit an ache or pain, but his health hit a dramatic low during cancer treatment. He required a feeding tube and could barely walk around the block. I wanted to be there to support him. My dreams of a Boston Marathon “someday” became something I needed to achieve quickly. But Boston is not a marathon where you can simply pay an entrance fee and show up on race day. To run the Boston Marathon you have to qualify by running another Boston Athletic Association approved marathon at an impressive pace, or run for a charity that has a marathon team.
Without a qualifying time, I decided to run for the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC). The world-renowned Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston fields a team of runners that raises money for innovative basic cancer research at their Claudia Adams Barr Program. Members of my dad’s oncology team were Dana-Farber affiliated. I applied to run for the DFMC team and was accepted. I had my marathon bib and I got to raise money to fight the disease that tried to slow my dad down. He had endured grueling radiation and chemotherapy, but his oncologists found that he had no evidence of disease five months before the marathon. There was just enough time for him to recover and train for Boston.
While he was was getting his strength back I was working hard to prove that I belonged with the other runners toeing the line in Boston. Running for DFMC was an honor, but with all the training I was doing, a qualifying time seemed like a tangible goal. And so, after joining the DFMC team, I also signed up to run the 2018 Mesa-Phx Marathon two months before Boston. It took a lot of hard work and unwelcome speed training, but I finished in 3:25, qualifying for my age group with 10 minutes to spare.
I raised over $12,000 for DFMC and got to run with my dad along the historic Boston Marathon route on April 16th, 2018. We had accomplished what we set out to do, and I had no intentions of running Boston again in 2019.
Then later that same day my husband got a call that his father, Vinnie, had been diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer. As one journey ended, another began. The fight against cancer is not over. It didn’t take long for my dad and I to decide to run the 2019 Boston Marathon for DFMC.
My dad was given a tough, but usually curable diagnosis. He is proof that cancer research works. Vinnie was given a more devastating and currently incurable diagnosis. He went through multiple, awful rounds of chemotherapy in the hopes of getting more time with his family, but it was never a matter of if, but when the cancer would end his life. Vinnie lived a wonderful life full of love. He passed away on March 21st, 2019 at home surrounded by his family. He is the real reason that we need to keep running toward a world without cancer.
Cancer has impacted everyone’s life in some way and Dana-Farber’s Claudia Adams Barr Program is working to change the way we think about cancer treatment. The program enables investigators to make tremendous advances and spearhead breakthroughs that are improving care, quality of life, and survival for patients everywhere. Someday soon they will find treatments that work and they need our support. I hope you’ll consider sponsoring my run from Hopkinton to Boston on April 15th, 2019 in honor of the fighters and survivors in your life.
You can easily make a tax-deductible donation online at http://danafarber.jimmyfund.org/goto/theresarunsdfmc. If you prefer to use a check, email me for more information.
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