A few years ago, adjunct professor Denise Way made a promise to herself. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, she committed to staying active. This past February, Way and a colleague, fellow adjunct professor Amira Clemens, participated in the Donna Deegan National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer in Jacksonville, Fla.
For Way, the marathon was more than just a run—it's a cause near and dear to her heart.
“I was always an advocate for health,” said Way. “Being a staff nurse and nurse educator for years, exercise was important to me. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I said ‘OK, let’s do this, let’s start the treatment to get through this,’ but I didn’t want to stop exercising. So, I continued with my exercise regimen.”
Way continued to exercise three days a week during her chemotherapy and radiation treatments. “I kept going even during the chemo. I was weak but I was determined,” she said. In 2011, she went to Jacksonville to complete her first marathon. Being too weak to run did not stop her. Instead, she walked the 13 of the 26.2 miles in just under four hours.
This year, Way talked Clemens into joining her in Jacksonville. At first Clemens was apprehensive about doing a marathon but, with encouragement from Way, she decided to go for it. “She first talked me into the Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon and then she persuaded me to go for the run in Jacksonville,” Clemens said. “She was real supportive and her story was encouraging.”
Their training process for the marathon was rigorous. Though the two were not able to train at the same pace they worked out individually. Clemens prepared by using online training programs and Way worked out in her home gym.
“During the training I went through a lot of different things both mentally and physically,” said Clemens. “But it was important for me to be able to support Denise because she has been through a lot. I made sure to do 5K and 10K runs in between the marathon and I followed my online program right up to 20 miles. After that I was ready.”
The two flew out to Florida for the marathon separately and met up once they arrived. “I was surprised [Clemens] actually came,” said Way. “I mean I was hopeful that she would come but that’s a lot to ask of someone.” Way completed 17 miles of the 26.2 before having to stop due to a torn ligament. Clemens was able to complete the entire 26.2 miles in just over six hours.
Way continues to strive to stay active and live a healthy lifestyle. Both Clemens and Way are training for the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia this year. “We are going to continue our quest to stay active because as nurses and advocates for health we need to set examples,” said Way. “Staying active is one of the best ways you can stay healthy. And nurse practitioners and servants say some of our best cancer patients are those who stay active.”
According to Clemens, it’s not just a run, it is a rite of passage. “Once you are able to run 26.2 miles it does something to you,” said Clemens.
The two have hopes of returning to the Donna Deegan National Marathon with even more people next year. “Our goal is to gain more recognition for the run and the cause,” Way said. “I want to tell people to come on and get moving.”