Paying It Forward

Posted: February 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

“It is impossible to win the race unless you venture to run, impossible to win the victory unless you dare to battle.” –Richard M. Devos

One of my favorite t-shirts during my 12 year tenure as coach for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of America’s Team In Training program was…”You Think Running A Marathon Is Difficult…Try Chemotherapy!”  That certainly provided a unique perspective on the marathon adventure.  I was inspired by the spirit of several cancer survivors that completed marathons.  I have discovered similar inspiration from Nora Johnsmeyer.  Nora is running for Bottom Line and has perfect attendance since we began training in early December and has the most amazing attitude!

In June of 2009, when I was 23, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Almost overnight, a swelling had developed just under my collarbone; firm, painless, and about the size of a golf ball. I saw a doctor at the MGH walk-in clinic, who sent me for a battery of blood tests, biopsies, and X-rays which showed cancer that had spread throughout my chest and neck. By the end of the day, the doctors could say with confidence that I’d need to start chemo within a week.

My world was turned upside down for a while, and my entire focus became withstanding the physical assault of aggressive chemotherapy. Every other Thursday, I’d check into the hospital for treatments. I lost my hair, a lot of my strength, and my appetite, but the chemo was so effective that all the symptoms of my cancer dissipated, and soon my scans were cancer-free! The day before Thanksgiving, I went in for my final chemo treatment – my finish line.

This past Christmas, I celebrated one year in remission, and set a goal to run the Boston Marathon for charity. When I was down, my friends, family, and doctors lifted me up, and as I regained strength I wanted to turn the tables and pay it forward. I’ve always loved running, but it’s taken on a new significance for me. Each time I think I can’t possibly make it another mile, I remember the days when it was a struggle just to hold my head up. Supporting the great work Bottom Line does for Boston students makes every trip up Heartbreak Hill worthwhile. I love having a goal in sight and being able to measure my progress towards it, and think about this new finish line always gives me chills. 

To learn more about my fundraising or to support my efforts, please visit my website:

That was then…


This is now…


Never without a smile!

  1. Cheryl Reed says:

    Nora, how amazing and impressive that you have gone through this at such a young age and are now committing to running the Boston Marathon so quickly. As someone who tends to shy away from large groups, I have appreciated how warm and friendly you have been every Saturday. It means a lot. Keep up that great work! You ROCK girl!!

    And, Rick, thanks for this post to help with our perspective. The aches, pains, and discouraging moments running and training for a marathon are truly a gift!

  2. Cheryl,

    It’s always important to maintain the proper perspective while training. Just when we think our challenges seem insurmountable, we’re reminded that others face far more significant obstacles…and we gain inspiration from them and their determination to overcome them.

    Your Coach,


  3. Barbara Rasmussen says:

    What a touching and inspiring story!

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