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Cancer does not have a face until it’s yours or someone you know –Anthony del Monte. My niece passed away at a mere 14 months old. And let me tell you, Anthony del Monte was right, and it sucks.

As many of you know, at just 4 months old, my niece, Emma Jacqueline Finke, was diagnosed with Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor (ATRT): brain cancer. That is a sentence no parent, family member, or friend ever wants to hear. In ten short months, she underwent three brain surgeries, a tracheotomy, stem cell transplants, and a whole variety of other medical procedures. She hardly got to leave the four walls of her ever-changing hospital rooms, with her parents ever by her side. We all hoped they could bring Emma home a happy and health girl once again. But those were not the cards my family was dealt. In February 2018, Emma lost her courageous battle to cancer. But in leaving us, she left science a gift. When she passed, Emma was able to donate to the medical world, with the decision of my sister and brother-in-law, a brain tumor, untouched by radiation.

Though I no longer have her hand to hold, I can no longer be her crazy aunt taking her on adventures, I can no longer spoil my little peanut, I know she is doing good for the world in her own way. Her tumor is being researched, manipulated, and hopefully directing scientists to a cure for brain cancer.

And that’s where you come in. None of this research and hopeful cure to cancer can happen without you. Raising awareness is just as important in this fight. That is what has driven me to run my first (and probably only) marathon. As a wise woman by the name of Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “you gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” Cancer is my fear. I don’t want another family to have to suffer the way my family has, and still is. I want future mothers' to be able to take their children home, happy and healthy. Do I think I can complete a full marathon right now? No. But knowing that as I train and run, I am raising awareness and funds for pediatric brain cancer, makes me believe I can do this.

Please help me in this fight, whether it be through a donation or your pledge to help spread awareness about the underfunding of pediatric brain caner. My family, future families, and myself will be forever grateful. Being that Emma spent the majority of her life under the expert care of the staff at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, I am running for them in her honor. All donations can be made there in Emma’s Memory for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Program: http://foundation.luriechildrens.org/site/TR/262MileRun/MarathonTeam?px=1945462&pg=personal&fr_id=1870

 On behalf of the patients and families of Lurie Children’s, thank you for your support!

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