On a warm Saturday in May, running was a little more difficult for Ryan DeJong than normal, but it was also better, because for the first time in a long time, his wife was with him.
News Channel 8 first met Michelle right after doctors diagnosed the 27-year-old with Glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor. That was just about a year ago. Michelle is now the face of the Neurology Department at Moffitt. Saturday Ryan pushed his wife in a specialty wheelchair, or chariot as he calls it, in the Miles for Moffitt race.
“We only had a day of practice,” Ryan said. “It’s a little tougher than running by myself. It was a lot of fun to be able to run with Michelle today because that’s something we haven’t been able to do together in a long time.”
Ryan, Michelle, and the crew of fighters waved flags and cheered on their inspiration the entire way. Just between the last two races, the couple raised more than $105,000.
More than 600 runners rallied under the fighter team this weekend. Michelle, Ryan, and several family members even have a fighter tattoo that the she designed.
“We talk about fighting cancer but it’s about so much more than fighting cancer,” Ryan said. “It’s a mentality. It’s about inspiring people and changing people’s lives by living example, by being the good. That’s something that you don’t have to have cancer to understand. I think that’s why people gravitate towards the fighter team.”
Thousands of other runners participated in the tenth annual event. Veronica Chesbrough attended in honor of her coworker, Bill.
“We know a lot of people that cancer has touched and Moffitt has touched,” Chesbrough said. “We definitely want to help kick cancer’s butt.”
In the event history the community has raised more than $2 million to fund cancer research.
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