When Tana Thompson’s then-boyfriend Marc was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer in 2009 at age 36, the two were taken by surprise and were thrown into a situation that was completely unfamiliar to them.
“Marc was very healthy and in shape and we never thought cancer would be anything we would have to deal with,” Tana said. “He found a lump on his neck while shaving and the doctor told him it was no big deal, and they did a needle biopsy and again told us it was not cancer and then they removed the lump on a Wednesday, and on Friday we got the call telling us that it actually was cancer after all.”
Marc was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and subsequently fought through a series of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for seven months. He was declared cancer free on March 25, 2010. Exactly one year later, the couple invited friends to a party to celebrate the cancer-free diagnosis, and when those friends arrived, they were shocked to find that Tana and Marc were actually getting married right then and there.
Years passed, and although the cancer was gone, the sting of the medical bills and the memories of the stressful time dealing with the cancer was still ever present. Tana decided that she wanted to find a way to help others going through what she and Marc had. Marc was an avid runner, and in 2016 he trained throughout his Liberty Ponds neighborhood in Forest Lake to compete in the Grandma’s Marathon. Neighbors saw him out running and started asking questions.
“Some of our neighbors asked out his training and said that if he planned to do it again next year they would join him,” Tana said. “I just assumed it was something nice that people were saying and I never dreamed they were really serious. However, as 2017 got closer, we began having conversations with different people, and we got a plan together.”
The Thompsons and a group of their neighbors hooked up with a national program called Team in Training. The objective is to choose a task, set a goal and raise money for a cause. There are a total 70 runners in the Minnesota chapter of Team in Training that are working toward the goal of completing the Grandma’s Marathon. Tana and Marc boast 12 runners from their Liberty Ponds neighborhood alone. Three will run the full marathon, and nine will complete the half.
“I am completely shocked at how this all came together,” Tana said. “We are the newbies in the neighborhood, as we have only been here two years. To see these people rally with us to run this race and fight for a cure for cancer is really amazing.”
Team in Training has scheduled workout sessions Saturday mornings and Wednesday nights, but just about any night of the week, one can find a group of neighbors running around Liberty Ponds.
“My main reason for doing all of this is because cancer pisses me off,” Tana said. “I know way too many people my age or younger who have lost the fight to cancer. It is like when you buy a new car that you think is unique and then suddenly you look around and everyone on the road has the same car. That’s what cancer is to me, and I am tired of sharing the road.”
The Liberty Ponds group has set a lofty goal to raise $30,000 by the June 17 race date. Tana said it may seem like a lot of money, but the motivation that the group has is very strong.
“Even those who can’t run with us are getting in on the fundraising,” she said. “The kids are hosting lemonade stands, families are having bake sales, and we are going to host a huge neighborhood garage sale to raise money as well. There was even a neighbor of mine who just gave birth and since she won’t be able to run with us, her family dropped off a check for $1,000. It is amazing to see just how much people care.”
The Liberty Ponds team has set up a fundraising website where anyone can donate to the cause. Visit goo.gl/SbD84D to give to the Liberty Ponds Team in Training.
“Do we all want to run 13 or 26 miles? No, we don’t,” Tana said. “But there are a lot of people out there who don’t want to sit in that chemo chair, and they don’t have a choice.”