BOSTON (CBS) – Marathon Monday is fast approaching, and today, a story about gratitude turning into action and an overriding desire to give back. Mary Shertenlieb has battled back from a dire form of cancer. And she’s also been battling the winter weather, training for her first Boston Marathon.
She’s raising money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a place she and her family say saved her life. “Anytime I run and I’m like, oh man, I just want to quit, I want to give up. I’m like you know what, I didn’t quit. I didn’t give up in the hospital,” she says.
Five years ago, February 2013, Mary Shertenlieb received a devastating diagnosis of leukemia. “Immediately when the results came back I was sent to the ER and they started treatment within hours,” she remembers.
Intense chemotherapy took its toll, but it also worked, initially. She and her husband Rich, whose voice you may know from the Toucher & Rich Show on the Sports Hub, went home with their two little boys, Hank and Max. She had to stay inside because her immune system was so weak.
Then came that Marathon Monday. The Shertenliebs lived above the Forum Restaurant, site of the second explosion. “We grabbed the kids, got her mask, forgot her medicine and ran out of the building. And the whole time the goal was to keep my wife from getting sick, and keep the kids from seeing what they were seeing,” Rich explains.
From there she relapsed twice, had a stem cell transplant and then took a chance at Dana Farber. “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 Rich and I said, yeah, let’s try whatever we can,” Mary says.
It worked. “Today, knock on some serious wood, I’m great. I was feeling so good that’s what made me decide to run the Marathon,” she says. Mary is running to raise money for Dana-Farber, but it hasn’t been easy. She’s endured a broken toe and medical problems caused by her weak immune system.
“I guess I’m thinking more about the people who are currently fighting now and the people that didn’t make it. And I’m thinking about, what if we raised just a little more money and it could have saved just that one person,” she says.
“The percentages weren’t good, but they have the best doctors, the smartest people, the best medicine. They saved my wife’s life and I’ll forever be in debt to them,” Rich says.
Mary has been hesitant to go to the finish line since the bombings, but when she crosses this time, she hopes that feeling changes. “By doing this and taking this head on and running across that finish line, I feel it will finally knock that fear out once and for all,” she says.
“I think she’s been really, really brave, because I can definitely not do any of that,” says her 10-year-old son Hank. Rich and the kids will be in her corner. “We’re going to be cheering louder than anybody. We are so proud of her and what she’s gone through,” says Rich.
If you’d like to contribute to Mary’s run, please visit rundfmc.org
You can watch live coverage of the Boston Marathon on WBZ-TV and CBS Boston.com on Monday, April 16.