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Mother Running Boston Marathon For Dana-Farber After Son Treated For Leukemia

BOSTON (CBS) -- The hills of Newton can't scare Audrey Norman, a runner with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, after the challenges her family has faced.

"I remember the look on the nurse practitioner's face, and she was just like, 'You need to to go Boston.'"

In February of 2013, Audrey's oldest son Dante was four years old and fighting a flu that he couldn't kick. After several visits to their own doctor, the diagnosis in Boston was acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

"It was overwhelming," she said.

Dana-Farber was a place Audrey already knew well.

"My father was a patient at Dana-Farber in 1987 when I was 10. He actually lost his battle to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. So Dana-Farber has been in my family for 35 years."

Dante Normand was just a year old when mom took him on his first Jimmy Fund Walk. And now, he's part of the family-fundraising tradition.

"One year in school, my friends and I did a fundraiser for a health project, and that's how we partially raised some of the money. So just little things you can do to help," Dante said.

Nine years ago, it was Dante who needed help.

As a child, Audrey watched her father fight cancer. But now, she was the parent, determined to do everything she could to help her son in his battle.

"To this day -- I have it tucked away somewhere -- I have a little notebook. The doctors would do their rounds in the morning, and every morning, I would sit with my notebook and just write everything down. I kept every piece of paper. I learned so much," said Audrey.

And while Audrey learned, Dante healed.

Two years of treatment, five more until he was officially cured, and now Dante is a healthy 13-year-old.

Their experience at Dana-Farber literally changed the path of Audrey's life.

"They were so incredible in just their treatment of both Dante and our family. And it inspired me to become a nurse myself," Audrey said. "On the day of his last chemo treatment, I actually drove the the North Shore Community College and signed up for my first nursing courses. Literally the same day."

Two years ago, Audrey decided she was ready to take on the Marathon. She did the virtual race in 2020.

"It was probably one of the best days of my life. It was so much fun."

This year, with the running buddies she now calls family, Audrey will make the journey from Hopkinton to Boylston Street.

Dana-Farber gave Audrey the gift of seeing her little boy grow into a young man.

As she says, it's not a place you want to know how to get to, but she'll be forever grateful that it's there.

"You walk into a place like Dana-Farber, and your heart rate just settles. You just feel like you're going to be taken care of. There's just so much hope. Everyone in the building is just positive and cheerful and absolutely wonderful," Audrey said. "We're very lucky. It's an amazing place with the smartest people in the world."

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