Since 1980, thousands of people have signed up every year to participate in the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. Some are running for the challenge. Some are running for fun. Gina Koehler is running because she can.
Gina never thought she'd lace up for the Blue Cross Broad Street Run after she was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia in May of 2010. Luckily, doctors caught the cancer early, and could easily treat it with an oral chemotherapy. Gina kept the chemotherapy routine going on and off for two and a half years. When she burned her thumb in December 2013 and the swelling did not go down, Gina's doctors knew something was wrong. The next day, she was told of the severity of her cancer. Gina was being placed on an intense treatment regimen. If it did not work, she may not live to see the end of the year.
Gina's fighting spirit never backed down.
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As she started treatment, doctors saw progress. They decided a stem cell transplant would be a viable treatment option for Gina. Through the findings of a human leukocyte antigen test, or HLA test, doctors chose Gina's oldest sister as a perfect match for the transplant on May 1. Recovery was difficult and painful, but she never doubted and just planned on surviving. After a month of recovery, Gina felt ready to start mild physical therapy.
Physical therapy kept her moving and motivated. Towards the end of her physical therapy, Gina felt strong enough to sign up for a small 5K. Her goal was just to finish, - which she did. She did not have plans to participate in anything longer until she went to a runner's expo with her husband that Gina thought about participating in the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. She saw the table at the expo, and when she saw the date of the race, the same date as the anniversary of her Stem Cell transplant May 1, she knew is was the next step.
Gina explained the Blue Cross Broad Street Run is her way to honor those who helped her and her family during her illness. She recalls the small acts that stood out most- things like laundry detergent showing up on her front porch or neighbors taking her pets for sleepovers when Gina's family could not be home.
When thinking back on how far she has come, Gina's husband recalls the time she suffered from the side effects of the stem cell transplant-- including a large blister on the bottom of her foot. He says at that time, all Gina wanted was for her doctor to amputate her foot. Now, she is ready to run a marathon. This is a testament of Gina's determination and willpower. Through the Blue Cross Broad Street Run, Gina wants to prove to herself and others that cancer doesn't define her.