Cancer survivor gears up for Boston Marathon

East Bay
Mary Jane Johnson cancer survivor Boston Marathon

TIVERTON, R.I. (WPRI) — With the Boston Marathon just three days away, thousands of people are preparing to take part in the annual road race.

But for one Tiverton woman, it’s much more than just a race.

This year’s marathon will be Mary Jane Johnson’s first since she learned she had cancer three years ago.

Johnson’s been training for the marathon for months. She is determined to finish this one, since three years ago, she had to stop because of a sharp pain while training for the New York City Marathon.

“Three years ago I felt like I was cheated out of an accomplishment,” Johnson said.

She ended up canceling her plans to participate in fear the pain would return, but ended up changing her mind. Eight hours in, she knew she wouldn’t be able to finish.

“Within a week I found out I had bladder cancer,” Johnson said.

The life-altering diagnosis meant Johnson had to undergo intense treatments. But while Johnson wasn’t running, she learned she was still in a marathon of a different kind.

“Every time you go in for a treatment, every time you get a new doctor, every time you have to negotiate insurance, it’s another challenge,” Johnson said. “Every aspect of cancer is a challenge, just like every aspect of running a marathon is a challenge.”

At 68 years old, Johnson realized the best way to move forward was to return to what she loves: running.

“I’m feeling good, there’s nothing there,” Johnson said. “I’m free of cancer, you want to do a marathon. What better one to do than Boston?”

Johnson will be running with the Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Along the way, she said she’s learned that while you may not be able to control what happens, you can control how you respond.

“Every morning I wake up and I put those feet on the ground and I say to myself, ‘it’s a good day,'” Johnson said. “You know you’re going to get up. You’re going to go for a walk. You’re going to go for a run. You’re going to have breakfast with your husband. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. It’s a good day.”

Johnson has already surpassed her fundraising goal, raising more than $9,000 for cancer treatments and research.

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