Grandma Genie, Dad going in for the Y90 radiation bead treatment and Mom 15 years after breast cancer!

Grandma Genie, Dad going in for the Y90 radiation bead treatment and Mom 15 years after breast cancer!

Running, Cancer, and Taking on the Road

 Grandma Genie loved Robert Frost’s poetry. Thank you for donating generously  HERE  or through this link:

Grandma Genie loved Robert Frost’s poetry. Thank you for donating generously HERE or through this link:

While training for the Chicago Marathon in August, 2018, my Dad was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer and I stopped training in order to take care of him full-time. By the time the event took place in October, I felt depleted and wondered if I should even attempt to run in the marathon. A year earlier, I set out to honor my maternal Grandma Genie's life that was cut short at age 56 by liver cancer (most likely due to exposure to pesticides while growing up on the family orchard near Grand Rapids, Michigan).

Sadly, Genie, was only 56 when she lost the battle in 1957. Today, my Dad has benefited from decades of medical science research and his liver masses are actually shrinking and dying through the insertion of small glass beads filled with radiation targeted into his hepatic artery. It is truly genius! He will then have oncology medication that was recently in the news because the pioneer scientists who designed it won the Noble Prize for putting Darwin's evolutionary lessons to use 159 years later. 

I am asking for a donation of $56 in honor of Genie to VAI (Van Andel Institute,, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Genie was from the Grand Rapids area.) to celebrate and support 6 decades of biomedical research that have improved lives since 1957.  *Feel free to choose any amount that you prefer to donate to medical research  (a large, a medium or small latte size). Thank you in advance for donating by clicking HERE (or on this link:

Not only did I run 26.2 miles in the Chicago Marathon on October 7, 2018 to support medical science at VAI, I improved my time by 10 minutes! I never imagined I would beat my PR even though that was my original running goal for marathon number two!!  After this experience, I'm going to continue running with goals, put to use my fitness level, create a long term PB plan and chase Boston qualifying times as well as create awareness for the middle child, the overlooked liver.

One of the most surprising things I've learned this year is that it takes 10 years and a billion dollars to get a new therapy to a patient’s bedside!  I chose to support medical science directly and chose the Van Andel Institute (VAI). VAI is in my grandma Genie's hometown and scientists at VAI seek to put an end to the many diseases we all fight such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and to several neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. 

The second most surprising thing I learned this year is that diabetes is two times more damaging to the liver than to the heart! Who knew!? Everyone knows diabetes damages the heart. Everyone knows diabetes is increasing worldwide. Few know that it hurts the liver twice more than the heart and combine diabetes toxicity to the liver with medications, sugar, hotdogs, lack of walking around, a beer or a glass of wine, processed flours and rice, not drinking enough water or eating enough fiber- not a very happy liver.

I appreciate your support very much! Thank you in advance for reading this post and choosing to give to VAI!  I'm happy to report that my Dad is doing well despite carrying on with a rare form of liver cancer that will no longer be carcinogenic but has damaged his liver. There is so much to be grateful for! 

Grandma Genie had a big heart for all children. She earned two degrees in education (during the years 1920s-1950s) and enjoyed working with children with special needs. She is remembered as being a trailblazer in the field of education when teachers were expected to remain unmarried (or quit if you did marry). Genie grew up on a rural farm and was regularly exposed to dangerous fertilizers. She encouraged my mom, Nancy, to pursue her dream of attending Columbia University in NYC which she did get into- although, all of those plans changed abruptly and my mom followed in her footsteps locally. Genie is not forgotten. We don’t have many pics of her because like a lot of moms, she was behind the camera most of the time! We talk about her often 61 years later. Hoping that more families do not have to go through anything similar!

Why VAI? 

Every single dollar raised will go directly to biomedical research fighting disease

  • research is expensive

  • funding is at a historic low!

  • funding VAI's epigenetics and epigenomics teams who develop the new therapies we all need

  • because it takes 10 years + a billion dollars = to get a new therapy to a patient's bedside! 

  • VAI inspires kids in West Michigan to learn science through wonderful classes, camps and more at VAI's Education Institute! 

Which diseases? 

Cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as: Asthma, Alzheimer’s, Blood cancer, Bone cancer, Breast cancer, Colorectal cancer, Depression/suicide, Diabetes, Heart disease, Huntington’s, Lewy Body Dementia, Neurofibromatosis type 1, Osteoarthritis, Osteoporosis, Ovarian cancer, Pancreatic cancer, Parkinson’s, Prion diseases, Prostate cancer, Sarcoma are some of the diseases scientists research at VAI. 

 “Learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning”- Albert Einstein   

I'm forever grateful to: 

-Ilan for believing in me when I couldn't and for actually running with me when I wanted to give up, 

-Ashley Owen (VAI's wonderful Senior Event Coordinator) for encouraging me to keep going no matter what happens that I could do it, 

-Nancy Clark, my mother for endlessly watching me run in person and cheering me on across the miles that I can do it, 

-Lucas and Ilanko for watching mommy run even though they find it immensely boring and, 

 -Einstein, our fido, for running happily by my side whenever I ask him to go along.

Besides donating to scientific research, we can focus on modifiable risk factors--things that we can change--either individually or within our community to prevent disease such as:

  • Physical activity (moderate heart rate helps the most)

  • Stress management and good sleep habits

  • Nutrition ...less sugar ...cook at home

  • Reduced exposure to radiation and chemicals that affect hormones or otherwise raise cancer risk

  • No or rare alcohol consumption

  • Breastfeeding (decreases breast cancer)

  • Health equity across neighborhoods

  • Clean drinking water

    Thank you for your generosity and donating HERE or following through this link:

Learn more about VAI at: