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11 Years After Beating Cancer, Teen Heads to Nike Marathon to Help Others

Posted by lynnesmith in The LLS Blog, 17 October 2014 · 289 views
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, LLS and 4 more...

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When Katie Smercak was 5 years old, and diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), her family felt helpless and wished they could do something.

Her grandmother, Ferrel, and aunt, Lael, ultimately turned to Team In Training as a part of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Connecticut Westchester Hudson Valley chapter, and began running marathons on her behalf to raise money for blood cancer research. On Sunday, 11 years after going into remission, Katie is ready to join them for their favorite race: the Nike Women's Half Marathon in San Francisco.

"I’m very excited - it’s something I've wanted to do since I was 10," said Katie, now 16. "I’ve been bugging my mom every day and I’m thrilled I can finally do it."

She'll be walking (quickly) rather than running, but she is just happy to be able to give back.

"It’s my way of coping with the fact that I had cancer and what I went through so others don’t have to," she said.

She won't be traveling alone. "Katie's Crew" is made up of her mother, Lind; sister, Chloe; of course Ferrel and Lael; her uncle, Lou, and many other TNT alumni who have been touched by her family's story. Katie was selected as a guest speaker at the starting line and will also have the honor of kicking off the Nike race wearing a purple sparkle tutu she designed herself.

Since joining TNT, Ferrel and Lael have raised over $60,000 for LLS. The team Katie's Crew has been selling tutus and doing Lemonade for Leukemia fundraisers and is well on its way to making this year's $50,000 goal.

Katie didn't know much about cancer when she was diagnosed because she was so young. Her friends didn't either. Some thought they could catch it and wanted to stay away. Remembering that experience makes her want to make sure people know the facts and bring awareness to the realities of blood cancers.

She makes her mother proud - so proud that she will be running her first race as well.

"You really don't know what to do when you have a crisis in the family," said Lind. "You just need a way to cope. After all we've been through, this is a way to celebrate and count our blessings that we are all here and healthy."

Photo (from left): Sandy Bandehas (coach) Meryl Laskin, Lisa Hawkins, Kim Addis, Kim Benedicto, Lizdely Garcia, Luigi Russo (in back), Lael Porcelli, Ferrel Porcelli, Katie Smercak (being held up), Lind Porcelli (kneeling). Missing: Lynette McBride, Chloe Smercak and Kristen Bohannon.

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