After Gil Schaenzle, 61, lost her 21-year-old daughter to neuroendocrine (NET) cancer, she could have holed-up. Instead, she took her grief through 50 U.S. National Parks on foot.
Schaenzle, who lives in Evergreen, Colorado, concocted a plan with her daughter, Anna Rose, while she was undergoing chemotherapy to eventually run through most of America’s National Parks.
“I told her of my idea to run through all the National Parks. I asked her if she would want to be my support vehicle driver when she had beat cancer and felt better. Her reply was “No.” I asked why, and she replied that she was going to run all of them with me,” Schaenzle wrote on her fundraising page.
Unfortunately, with Anna Rose’s passing, running them together was no longer an option, so Schaenzle set out on a multi-purpose quest. She was running to honor her daughter, generate awareness about the disease, and raise money for The Healing NET Foundation.
She ended up raising $12,000, far surpassing her $10,000 goal.
Another number of importance: Nine.
“I carried her for nine months. Her worst symptoms were nine months before her diagnosis. Her diagnosis to death was nine months,” Schaenzle told Runner’s World. “I started this campaign nine months after she died, and I finished nine months after I started.”
Anna Rose was diagnosed with stage IV adrenal cortical carcinoma, a rare type of NET cancer in 2016. At the time, she was an avid runner and volleyball player. But, surgeries to remove almost 10 pounds of tumor from her stomach, in addition to chemotherapy and clinical trials, forced her to give up those sports.
She passed away in March of 2017, and less than a year later, Schaenzle set out on her 39,000-plus-mile journey.
She started at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky on November 10, 2017, which just happens to be National NET Cancer Awareness Day, and finished on August 4 in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. She ran distances ranging from 5Ks to half marathons in each park.
“Running used to help me find out how far I could go,” Schaenzle told GOOD Sports. “Now, running is more about spending time with my girl. When I’m out running, she’s with me, and we talk. It’s my time with her.”
For more on Gil Schaenzle’s National Park expedition, watch this feature from TODAY: