Until Monday, Mary Shertenlieb had never run a marathon. And if someone had told her beforehand that she’d finish dead last in the Boston Marathon, she probably wouldn’t have been happy about it.
But when all was said and done, she was ecstatic to have finished at all, because that seemed all but impossible until just recently.
The 42-year-old mother of two and wife to Rich Shertenlieb was diagnosed with AML, a rare form of leukemia, back in 2013. After undergoing a grueling series of medical treatments, including chemotherapy and stem cell and bone marrow transplants, the cancer just kept returning.
As a last-ditch effort, Mary sought out help at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
They said, this time we’re going to nuke you and throw all these crazy things that we haven’t tried before. Are you game for doing that? And (my husband) Rich and I said, “Yeah, let’s try whatever we can.”
Miraculously, the aggressive treatments sent the cancer into remission!
Though she’s gaining back her strength, Mary’s immune system remains compromised because of the immunosuppressants she continues to take following her 2014 bone marrow transplant. But she was determined to mark her five-year battle this year and decided to do it in a big way: Participating in the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon.
But as anyone who watched the race knows, Mother Nature didn’t exactly cooperate that day. Braving torrential rain (the green in the photo!), Mary ran alongside other competitors at a good pace in the beginning but started to feel poorly after 12 miles.
Her doctors had warned her ahead of time to pull out of the race if she wasn’t feeling well, particularly because of her compromised immune system.
By the 15-mile marker, she was showing signs of potential hypothermia and was finally forced to stop at the closest medical tent.
Mentally, I was so prepared to finish that race. But physically my body just started to give in with just being so cold. So mile 15 I popped into another med tent, and they were like, “You don’t look so great. You might want to get on the shuttle to go back to Boston.”
For a short while, she soldiered on with a friend but was finally forced to admit defeat. It was worth a shot, right, and she gave it her best try?
She called her husband, Rich, and asked him to come pick her up. But he knew how important it was to his wife to finish the race, and he had a much better idea.
He goes, “Why don’t you go home, take a shower, change into warm clothes, eat dinner, and then we’ll go back out? We’ll finish it together. We’ll take a cab back to the Dunkin’ Donuts at 15.5, and run the whole way back, or jog or walk, however we need to get there.”
Watch the video below to see the iron-willed Mary and her incredibly supportive husband cross the finish line — and, in doing so, raise more than $34,000 for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
“You can do anything — it may not be how you imagined it playing out, but you can still get it done,” she said at the finish line.
Share to spread her inspirational story!
— Dan Roche (@RochieWBZ) April 17, 2018