Voices of Hodgkin’s Blog
Voices of Hodgkin’s Blog

Two Marathon Runners And Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Survivors – Giving Back And Doing Incredible Things

By Matt Ellis and Regina Norfolk – January 2024 marked 25 years that Elena Togashi has been in remission from Hodgkin lymphoma. To mark this incredible milestone, the 45-year-old cancer survivor will run this year’s Boston Marathon with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team.

“Twenty-five years ago, my life changed forever when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma during my sophomore year at Brown University. Until then, my whole world had revolved around academics, a semester abroad, and social life,” said Elena. “Then suddenly, 3 days after having a swollen neck, cancer consumed my world with 6 months of chemotherapy, 1 month of radiation, and eventually remission and a renewed life.”

Elena works at Dana Farber. She helped create their adult survivorship program and is working on a similar initiative for young adult survivors. Programs such as these are particularly important because long-term survivors of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, like Elena are at a greater risk than other cancer survivors of developing late effect illnesses, such as secondary cancers and cardiovascular disease.

“As an employee at Dana-Farber, I truly know what an amazing place the hospital is. Although I am a cancer survivor, I will be running my marathon in honor of other cancer patients. Memories of the brave cancer patients I met while undergoing my own treatments and family and friends who have or are going through treatment right now. These are the people who will inspire me during my marathon,” Elena said. “My legs will feel numb as if they can run no further, but I will never forget the feeling of cancer, chemotherapy, radiation, and the challenges of survival and that will keep me running.”

It was 42 years ago that Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor Erin Cummings ran her first Boston Marathon. Over the next three decades, she would go on to do seven more marathons, walking the last three in New York City after having open-heart surgery, a late effect of the cancer treatment she received in the 1970s.

“I share this as an example of how Hodgkin’s survivors can do incredible things, despite all their health challenges,” said Cummings, founder of Hodgkin’s International, a local nonprofit focused on educating Hodgkin lymphoma survivors, and their caregivers, about the life-threatening health issues they face today because of the treatments they received years ago. “We can be strong again. Our bodies are still capable of doing the impossible, or maybe the improbable. For survivors who are decades out of treatment, that may mean just getting out of bed each day. But when we realize that many of us were not supposed to live this long, it can feel miraculous,” said Cummings.

The BAA says this year more than 2,700 athletes will be running Boston to support cancer research and treatment. Among the many great stories of determination and strength this spring, we hope you will consider sharing the one about how surviving Hodgkin’s cancer is so different.