Heather's 1999 marathon letter

Dear Family and Friends,

A year ago, I wrote to you, asking for your support for my first Boston Marathon. With your help, I was able to raise nearly $3,000 towards basic cancer research. All told, the entire Dana Farber Marathon Challenge team gave an outstanding $1.5 million to the Claudia Adams Barr Program, enabling ten Barr Investigators to focus on cancer research over the coming year.

The Boston Marathon itself was an amazing experience! Walking up to the starting line, I was incredibly nervous, as I had spent the past four months straight in physical therapy with knee problems and had not run more than 18 miles in one “sitting.” But my confidence grew as kids asked for our autographs at Hopkinton. Spectators would actually duck under the ropes and run with you on the street, just to shake your hand for running for Dana Farber. And those wonderful BC guys offered me countless beers and burgers as I traveled through Cleveland Circle. By all means, it was not a smooth race. My infamous bad knee gave out in the hills in Newton. But my father taped me back together at mile 20 and sent me on my not-so-merry way. However, as I crossed the finish line some 5 hours and 40 minutes after I started my adventure, I knew I’d be back for more in 1999.

What I did not know that day is how drastically one young girl would change my life and my goals in the months to come. In early February, I was accepted into the Patient Partner Program and paired up with Brittany Lambert, a wonderful 13-year old girl from Duxbury with myelodsyplasia, a rare blood disorder which leads to leukemia. Brittany, a cat lover, was a rare breed of cat herself with a wonderful ability to enjoy life fully and dream about tomorrow, even though she was fully versed in the intricacies of her illness. From the onset, I was told that she was one of the sickest children in the program, but that she was one of the best. When told Brittany was my partner, I always received a warm, knowing smile from doctors, nurses and pyscho-soc workers, usually followed by “you’re lucky – she’s special.”

And special she was. At Project Adventure, a Saturday full of games geared towards getting to know each other, we compared notes and discovered a mutual adoration of hockey, second only to that of a particular former Bruin, Adam Oates, whom she had met, much to my envy! The night before the marathon, she and her family joined us at our pasta party, where Brittany told me it was okay if I couldn’t finish the run, just as long as I tried. The next day she waited in the cold for hours for me to run by Kenmore Square – we later laughed at my rather inaccurate and greatly under-exaggerated guesstimate of my time. At a Red Sox game this past summer, we played devil’s advocate, cheering on Mo Vaughn as those around us collectively booed his at-bats. And finally at a DFMC barbecue this fall, she gave me a lesson on the finer points of bargaining for Beanie Babies at flea markets.

Once, I had asked Brittany to explain her illness, and with an impish grin, she rolled her eyes and finished, “well, it’s not like I’m going to die tomorrow.” Because she had lived her short life so fully, I was unprepared for the phone call I received in late October. Brittany died on October 22, 1998. A few days later, her family asked me to come with them to visit her middle school. Her classmates had covered her locker and those surrounding from the floor well up onto the ceiling with cards, flowers, signs, photographs, stuffed animals….there wasn’t a free space to be seen. It was an amazing, heartbreaking site. The message was clear: even those who did not know her personally had been touched by her beauty, her humor and, most of all, her courage.

This year, my goal is to raise $10,000 in memory of Brittany. While this is a rather intimidating number, I hope that you consider contributing even the smallest amount. 100% of your donation funds Barr Program researchers at Dana Farber, ensuring novel approaches in basic cancer research. While a cure was not found in time for Brittany, I hope that her memory will live on as researchers help other young cancer victims.

Thank you in advance for your support and encouragement. Stay tuned for my post-Marathon update!


Read 1998 marathon letter
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Read 2000 marathon letter

Last updated on March 29, 2008 .
Any problems, contact Heather.