Leesa during treatment
Leesa Drake’s physical accomplishments are awe-inspiring. This past spring, she was planning for her 99th and 100th marathons. In addition to her own races, she planned to train The Lynn Sage Foundation running team. She joined Team Lynn Sage during the 2016 Chicago Half Marathon and, this year, led our inaugural Bank of America Chicago Marathon eleven-person team. Leesa’s commitment to physical fitness is impressive, but she is proving an unstoppable force against her current challenge.
“I was happy to get involved with The Lynn Sage Foundation last year. One in eight women getting a breast cancer diagnosis is sobering. I know women. I knew women. That’s a lot of people. You’d be dodging a super big bullet to never have to deal with breast cancer, but even still, I wasn’t suspecting it would be me.”
This past spring, Team Lynn Sage members received an unexpected email right as their training season started. Leesa shared her recent breast cancer diagnosis, course of treatment, and her commitment to stay involved with the team.
“I’m none of the risk factors. I did everything right. The initial diagnosis was Stage 1 breast cancer, requiring surgery, but no chemo or radiation. After surgery, that was changed to Stage 3, adding both chemo and radiation to the plan.”
While undergoing treatment, Leesa continued to train. She planned to run in Chicago.
“I know I'm pretty stubborn, so I’ll do what I can to be ready and talk with my doctors about the risks. So far, they have been really supportive. After the race, I'll still have two more chemo sessions, followed by five weeks of radiation.”
While Leesa adjusted her time commitment with Team Lynn Sage to focus on treatment, she has remained its biggest cheerleader. However, her diagnosis also meant reevaluating significant personal goals. Leesa’s plan to run her 99th marathon in Chicago, followed a week later by her 100th in Connecticut, seemed ambitious given her treatment schedule. Leesa decided to postpone her 100th until she can run it completely healthy and in an amazing location as a celebration.
Her doctors remained supportive. True to her determined and positive attitude, with many friends and family along the course, Leesa completed her 99th marathon with Team Lynn Sage on Sunday, October 7th!
“I’ve learned a lot along the way. A friend from running gave me a life lesson that applies in both a race and while undergoing treatment: ‘There are highs and lows and neither one will last. Manage the ups and downs, but don’t overreact to either.’"
Every day, Leesa proves this to be true. Sharing detailed updates about her journey on Facebook, she inspires hundreds of people, including The Lynn Sage Foundation community.
“There have been some really hard days. I try to focus on the next thing, not all the things. I’m a planner — I like calendars and planning — so that mindset challenges me to keep my head in check.”
Mentorship from friends who are also breast cancer survivors is invaluable to Leesa.
“I’m grateful I have friends who’ve had this challenge ahead of me and give great advice. Now I use my story in my Lynn Sage Foundation fundraising because it's just more personal. The Lynn Sage Scholars are doing really important work so that the 1 in 8 don’t have to worry so much. I have advantages now in my treatment compared to friends who went through this even just a few years ago.”
Thanks to Leesa's inspiration, Team Lynn Sage raised over $48,000 to support The Lynn Sage Scholars Program! If you’re interested in joining our charity team for the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, we'd love to have you. Please contact The Lynn Sage Foundation at email@example.com.
Leesa and team member Dani
Leesa with friends on course