For This Runner, the Race to Finish Breast Cancer is Personal

Hollis younger with her husband and daughter.

Last February, Hollis Livezey Youngner stood at the end of the National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer, cheering (and crying) as she watched many of her friends and family members cross the finish line of a race they’d run in her honor. “I was a bundle of emotions,” Hollis tells us. “It was the most amazing, inspirational experience.”

When she saw one of her chemo nurses cross that line, Hollis, who was diagnosed with HER-2 positive breast cancer in 2012, made a decision: “Next year, I’m going to do that, too.” She started training for the half marathon in March, and soon after, learned her cancer had spread to her brain. It’s shown up in two additional spots since then. “I’ve joked to my doctor that someone’s trying to tell me not to run,” Hollis, who continues to be seen at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus, tells us.

But she’s not listening. “It’s just become more of a reason to run,” Hollis says. And she’s continued to run even as she receives radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Another inspiration: The race takes place on Feb. 12, just days before the five-year anniversary of her initial diagnosis. This year is also the 10th anniversary of the marathon, dubbed the 26.2 With Donna (a nod to founder Donna Deegan). To date, “the Donna” has raised more than $5 million for breast cancer research. Hollis tells us she liked the idea of marking the two “huge anniversaries” by running the race herself.

But she won’t be running alone. More than 35 people have joined her team. “We’ve got friends, family, nurses, people I don’t even know,” Hollis says. “It means so much to me to have so much support.” Some are serious runners but have told Hollis they’re not running this race to beat the clock. “They said they’re running to be with me when I cross the finish line, and that’s what they’ve done since my diagnosis,” she says. Her family, too, has been a tremendous source of support. “They’ve told me from Day 1 that I’m not in this alone, and they’ve never left my side.”

Also by Hollis’ side are the “amazing doctors and nurses” at Mayo Clinic, including the researchers at the Mayo Clinic Breast Cancer Translational Genomics Program, which was developed with the help of funds raised by the marathon. As Your Health magazine reports, Hollis recently met some of those researchers. “To hear about the progress being made every day, it’s exciting,” she tells the magazine. “I believe the new things they are finding are going to continue to help me and so many others out there.”

Watch this video to learn more about Hollis’ Mayo Clinic story, which includes a marathon CPR session that saved her life. And in case you're wondering, it’s not too late to register for the 26.2 With Donna.

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