A doctor and her patient plan on going the distance, together, at Sunday’s marathon. Each drawing inspiration from the other, they have a friendship that won’t end when they cross the finish line.
Their friendship began in 2009 on a trip to Washington. Hailey Danisewicz was 17 and lobbying for a bill that supported pediatric cancer research. Dr. Jennifer Reichek went along to help care for the student representatives.
“As a 17-year-old junior in high school she was a pistol. She was completely into government and interested in political science and hoping to change the world,” said Dr. Reichek, a Lurie Children’s oncologist.
“When I was 12 years old, I had a lump on my leg and I thought it was a basketball injury. Ran a series of test and eventually found out it was osteosarcoma, which is a form of bone cancer,” Hailey said.
Hailey underwent several surgeries and a year of chemotherapy. Her cancer was successfully treated, but her leg never healed properly.
“I spent a couple years on crutches not being able to bend my knee or walk, and it kind of got to the point where I was really frustrated with where I was and knew I could do a lot more with a prosthetic,” Hailey said.
So at the age of 14, she made a life-altering decision: “I approached my parents, and I told them I wanted to have my leg amputated. And it ended up being the best decision because I’m able to do so much more now.”
And now, that includes triathlons. For the past two years, Hailey has trained intensively for the Paratriathlon World Championships. She competed this summer in London.
“I was fortunate to take home the gold medal in my category,” she said
This Sunday Hailey is hoping for another medal; not a gold one, but one all participants receive after crossing the finish line of the Chicago Marathon.
“As a runner with an amputation I’m allowed to have a guide with me on the course basically to just run with me and make sure I don’t kick anyone, that nobody runs into me,” Hailey said.
“I love the Chicago marathon,” Dr Reichek said. “I’ve run it every year since I’ve lived here, and I really want to run again, but I don’t run it for me. What I really want to do is run it to help somebody else. And she said, ‘Oh, coincidentally, I get to have a guide.’ And I said, ‘I think you found your guide!’”
“It’s so much fun to run with her. We just talk non-stop,” she continued
And they have a lot to talk about. Not only is Dr. Reichek Hailey’s running buddy, she’s also her physician at Lurie’s STAR program – Survivor’s Taking Action and Responsibility. It’s a clinic for cancer survivors.
“She got enough chemo to cause problems with all sorts of organs in her body, and yet it’s not stopping her in any way shape or form. She’s one of the most determined people I know,” Dr. Reichek said.
“Jen has been awesome this summer. Yes, she’s my running buddy and a good friend of mine, but she also really believes in me,” Hailey said.
“We’ve come full circle from being a mentor to being a running mentor to now being her doctor as well. So we have quite the relationship,” Dr. Reichek said.
Hailey is running for Team One Step, a fundraising group that supports Camp One Step at a Time — a summer program for kids with cancer. To learn more go to: http://www.onestepcamp.org/team-one-step/
And if you’d like to learn more about Lurie’s STAR program for cancer survivors, check out: