“We couldn’t believe it,” Candice Russell said. “At mile 20, she still looked good! She passed us and smiled and gave us the thumbs up. It was emotional. Throughout her life, she has always just kept going no matter what, and she did the same thing in the marathon.”
This wasn’t always easy, Candice said, especially during the medical “nightmare” they were faced with more than two decades ago. After Lisa’s liver failed in 1990, she and her mother traveled to Boston, where they experienced a number of promising leads and subsequent setbacks regarding a possible donor. The 8-year-old was finally paired with a liver from a 14-year-old boy who was killed in an accident in Boston, Candice said. After her daughter’s surgery, the two flew back to Walton for Christmas, only to have the young girl’s body begin to reject the organ just days after. But with treatment, the organ was usable.
Because of all the medicines Lisa had taken as a child, her immune system was suppressed and extremely weakened, Candice said. At the age of 15, she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and headed back to Boston to undergo chemotherapy. Candice said the entire experience was surreal, but Lisa’s unwavering strength, and the town of Walton’s showering of love, prayers and support, got them through.
“When she was doing her chemotherapy, we’d go in on Wednesday nights, she’d have treatment on Thursday and stay through Friday and she’d be back in school on Monday morning,” Candice said. “She was amazing. We’re just so proud of her.”
Russell now has her doctorate and works as a medical researcher at the National Institute of Health in Baltimore, where she is studying the immune system, she said. Although she returns to Boston each year for a routine health check-up, she was happy to visit the city that nursed her back to health twice, but on different terms this time.
“It was exciting to go and support the city that I’ve grown to love,” Russell said. “... I now very much want and am truly excited to help fight pediatric cancer one step at a time by running in the 2014 Boston marathon.”