Jun 13 2015
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Runner Spotlight | Running for Justine

At every Rock ‘n’ Roll start line thousands of runners join each other to take part in an incredible event, accomplishing amazing goals. Each of our fellow runners has a story to tell that brings them to that start line. Runners at Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle will be honoring Justine; a mother, friend, and runner.

Each day, Shelby Schenk would meet his longtime neighbor Justine Palmer at the bus stop as they sent their kids off to school.

“She was beautiful and full of life, very active and ate very well so it came as a surprise to most of us when she was diagnosed with cancer three years ago.”

The mother of an 11-year old girl and 8-year-old boy, Justine was suddenly facing the fight of her life. What was at first thought to be a lung infection turned out to be a rare form of lymphoma.

“She fought like a champ and was always happy, even when things weren’t going well. She was such a fighter and inspired so many people,” says Shelby.

Justine beat her cancer three times, but each time it would eventually return more aggressively than before.  Shelby, a longtime coach for Team-in-Training, the charity training team of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, had been ready to retire to spend more time with his boys. But Justine said she wanted to run with him and his team once she beat the cancer again.

“She and I talked about how when she beat this thing I would coach one more year so she could run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Half Marathon and inspire people along the way,” he recalls. She was going to run the race this year, on Saturday, June 21.

In March of this year, Justine came down with a temperature, thinking it was only a common infection from chemotherapy. Instead, the lymphoma had returned. She had only a few days left.

“I got a call from her husband’s sister that Justine wanted me to come down and see her,” says Shelby. “It was really hard knowing it was probably going to be the last time I would see her.  I went back again the following day after work and she gave me a big hug and smile.  She apologized to me for not beating the cancer because she wanted to run the half marathon. It broke my heart so I told her I would run it for her.  That was the last time I saw her.” 

Upon returning home, Shelby posted on Facebook about the last conversation they had and how he planned to run for Justine. Friends, family and loved ones responded with an outpouring of support and asked to run with him. On Saturday, June 21, more than 40 people, including Justine’s husband, will run at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon & ½ Marathon.

“This means the world to her husband, kids and extended family,” says Shelby. “We run for Justine because she couldn’t and we will be thinking of her every step we take to the finish line.”

Team Justine is fundraising to help cover her medical costs and also to raise awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Donations are being accepted at http://www.gofundme.com/Team-Justine.

This story is just one of many that brings the members of the Rock ‘n’ Roll community together. Share your personal story and you could be featured on the Rock Blog. 

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