Gianna Bender is running Boston to raise funds for cancer research


“I run so that more can be done.”

Gianna Bender became an oncology nurse after watching her boyfriend, Henry, battle cancer. She walks to support the care that the Dana Farber Cancer Institute provides.

In our “Why I’m Running” series, Boston marathoners share what inspires them to take the 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston. If you’re running the marathon, share your story here.

Name: Gianna Bender
Age: 24
From: Boston

My friend Henry had a passion for life. Unlike many, he knew not to take a day for granted. This self-described “zeal for life” transcended to those around him – his positivity and sarcasm were contagious. Henry started his battle with osteosarcoma when we were in high school. His experience and encouragement made me aspire to become a pediatric oncology nurse.

I now work at Boston Children’s Hospital on the clinical oncology floor, where Henry was treated. Working in partnership with Dana Farber and the Jimmy Fund, I work to care for, educate, advocate, and guide children and families through diagnosis and treatment in the hopes of seeing these children walk out of the door cancer-free. My work is as humiliating and powerful as it is terrible and devastating. It is the greatest privilege to walk with the most courageous children who, like Henry, continue to set the example to rise above.

I’ll put on my sneakers to run the Boston Marathon for Dana Farber, in honor of Henry and my patients. While I’ve always been a runner, this run is different. This run is I choose hope – that my small efforts can make a bigger difference. It’s me pushing myself in a way that gives back to others. I run so that more can be done.

Henry died in 2017 at the age of 20. He did that after completing his bucket list – activities he wanted to do with the limited time he had. For these reasons, I don’t feel like my friend “lost” his battle. He was not defined by the cards he was dealt. In so many ways he won life in the far too short time he had. I lead Boston for him so that he and the way he lived his life will be remembered, and that his inspiration can help others celebrate life too.

Editor’s Note: This post may have been slightly edited for clarity or grammar.

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