In two and a half months, University of Richmond senior Kate Hudson will fly across the country to San Diego, Calif., to run the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in honor of the friend she made three years ago when they shared their battles with cancer.
In February of her junior year in high school, Hudson was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and fought her way to remission by July 1 of the same year. Two years later, a local seventh-grader, Amanda Post, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
The two didn't live far from each other outside Columbia, Md., went to the same schools and both played soccer. Still, growing up six years apart, they had never met. Then, Post's diagnosis brought them together.
The two were treated at Children's Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore, Md., and had the same physician, Dr. Joseph M. Wiley. After Post's diagnosis, her mother wanted Amanda to talk with someone who had been down the scary road ahead. So, Wiley put the two girls and their families in touch.
"Hospitals will do that because you need little 'chemo buddies,'" Hudson said. "She got through her first round [of treatment] so well. She lost her hair and she was a seventh-grader. I mean, middle school, the awkward years, you really need your hair!"
The girls became fast friends, sharing experiences few of their other friends could understand, such as the day each was diagnosed, facing the overwhelming choices and hurdles of treatment. They also were able to talk about being the kid with cancer at school, watching their parents try to hide their worries and keeping their spirits high while fighting to be "just a kid."
Hudson's support and friendship helped Amanda and her family get through treatment and onto recovery in June of 2007. Shortly after that, Amanda was back in school and on the soccer field. Last fall, she began her freshman year of high school and was playing for the junior varsity soccer team at the same high school Hudson had played for. But, in October, Amanda relapsed and has been in and out of the hospital undergoing treatment since.
A few months after Amanda relapsed, Hudson decided to run in the marathon. Hudson explains it simply: She is running because Amanda cannot. A former goalie for Richmond's women's soccer team, Hudson is in week four of her 18-week training period and already feeling the difference between protecting the goal and running the distance. When she is pushing through the last lap around the track, Hudson reminds herself that her battle against the pavement is nothing compared with the battle against a disease.
"I knew I had to do something for Amanda and this is all I can do," Hudson said. "I'm running because Amanda wants to go running, but she can't, and because it means something to her."
To Amanda, her family and others like them, committing to run in a charitable marathon means that the battle against cancer is not just their battle. The run is meant to demonstrate the dedication and involvement of others and send the message that no one fights this alone.
"We're so proud of her for fighting her own battle," said Cheryl Post, Amanda's mom. "For her to step outside of herself to do this for Amanda, it's overwhelming. We couldn't be more proud of her."
Hudson signed up with the local chapter of Team In Training, an organization that helps people like her train for the big day. Team In Training started in 1988 when Bruce Cleland of Westchester, N.Y., organized a group of 38 people to train for the New York City Marathon. While training together, the team raised $320,000 in honor of his baby daughter who had been a leukemia patient at the time. The funds were donated to the Westchester/Hudson Valley Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a voluntary health organization focused on funding blood cancer research, education and patient services.
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Eventually, that Team In Training group of 38 people grew to become an organization with chapters of its own across the country. The program organizes teams of marathon hopefuls to train for any distance and raise funds to donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Hudson has used her Team In Training fundraising page to accept donations. As of last week, she had raised $3,490 of the $4,300 she intends to raise.
"The fundraising is going shockingly well," Hudson said. "I've been going door to door around school and in the neighborhood. It's amazing how generous people can be."
While Hudson prepares for the marathon and Amanda progresses toward recovery, Hudson said she hoped her run could remind Amanda that she wasn't alone.
Contact reporter Amelie LeBreton at firstname.lastname@example.org
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