Running Up Heartbreak Hill for Palliative Cancer Care At age 60, I ran my first marathon for NYU Langone

As a palliative care social work manager, it’s my job to reach beyond medicine to comfort people with serious illnesses. I supervise a team of social workers at NYU Langone Health who have dedicated their careers to understanding the needs of patients and giving them fulfilling experiences in the face of health crises.

Sometimes it’s a simple gesture like helping a family member with parking. Other times, it’s coordinating a wedding in our hospital so terminally ill parents can see their adult children get married.

Our days our often not easy, but having the ability to bring people together during a time of need can be a very beautiful thing. I find it a privilege to be able to enter the lives of patients and families and witness their most tender moments.

Over the years, my brother Brian has led a life dedicated to helping others as well. As the executive director for sales for the New England Patriots and a passionate sports fan, Brian started the nonprofit Golf Fights Cancer alongside his longtime friend Jay Monahan, who is now the commissioner of the PGA Tour. Their goal was to harness the philanthropic power of the sports community and raise funds for cancer-related charities in honor of a friend who died from cancer.

Brian has run more than 25 Boston Marathons in association with Golf Fights Cancer, fundraising for cancer-based organizations in the Boston area and beyond.

At age 60, I thought it was time to start catching up with Brian and decided to run my first marathon in support of NYU Langone’s palliative care team.

Doing the hard work with a mission to help

When I got the idea to run the Boston Marathon, I knew it was now or never because I’m getting older. After a trip to Boston’s famous Heartbreak Hill early on in my training, I experienced the strain of how difficult this feat would be. There was definitely some heartbreak involved during that day of training, but my brother and I laugh about it now knowing what we ended up achieving.

From January to April, I took advantage of the mild winter and ran through the neighborhoods near my new home in Westchester and visited the NYU Langone running clinic to get some tips on how to maximize my potential as a runner.

Throughout these months, I also reached out to the people in my life to help with my fundraising goal. The support I got from friends and family was totally overwhelming and heartwarming. Across the board, everyone has been touched by cancer—either themselves or with a family member. It’s a cause so universal that everyone has a story to tell and a personal reason to give.

Together, we ended up raising $226,200, a fitting and symbolic number for the race’s 26.2 miles.

Across the board, everyone has been touched by cancer—either themselves or with a family member. It’s a cause so universal that everyone has a story to tell and a personal reason to give.

The funds raised will help my colleagues on the palliative care team continue to go above and beyond for their patients.

A windfall of new possibilities for palliative care

There are many services we’ll be able to offer with the funds raised. We can be as creative as possible to provide patients care beyond their expectations.

While the marathon was a gut-wrenching multi-hour event, bringing my loved ones together and awarding my team at NYU Langone with the ability to change lives was 100 percent worth it.

I’ve still got more than 25 marathons to go to catch up with Brian, but this one meant the world to me—and to the cancer patients in the palliative care unit where an everyday gesture can change one’s outlook forever.

Thank you to everyone who helped me and donated to this life-changing work. And if you’ve ever thought about running a marathon in support of a cause that is meaningful to you, go for it!