Anna’s Story

Teaming Up for Breast Cancer Research

Anna Tomaszewski grew up going to the Chicago Marathon as a spectator with her mom and siblings.  When Anna decided to run the marathon in 2019, it was clear she would run to benefit breast cancer research because she had also grown up with breast cancer.

“Due to the groundbreaking research of foundations like Lynn Sage Foundation, my mom lived 17 more years after her initial diagnosis. That was seventeen MORE years of wonderful memories together,” Anna proudly notes. “I’ll always be grateful for the science and research that allowed my mom to see me grow up and to see me complete my first marathonone of her favorite Chicago activities!”

Anna, the youngest of five children, was 8 years old when her mom, Sheila, was first diagnosed with breast cancer.  Her parents chose to be positive.  They never let cancer be a scary, looming, dark cloud in their life.  No matter how sick her mom was, she was always ready to beat Anna at Candyland.

“I’ve learned that cancer doesn’t have to stop the fun of life.  No battle can stop you from living your best life, including something as frightening as cancer,” she reflects.

As Anna and her siblings grew into teenagers and adults, they recognized it was time to step up and help take care of their mom. They took her to appointments and sat with her during chemo. They found that among adversity also lies the opportunity to grow stronger.  Working together and taking turns, they could persevere with a positive spirit just as their mom always had.

“We learned that no matter how difficult the storm seems, you can always smile and take a baby step forward,” she comments.

Anna didn’t expect her mom to be present at the marathon.  Sheila was in a wheelchair and not leaving the house much.  But Sheila wouldn’t let cancer stop the joy of watching her daughter complete her first marathon.  Not only did she make it to the race, she traveled to see Anna in THREE different locations.  AND, she made it out for a celebratory drink afterward.

A delighted Anna notes “Marathon day 2019 was truly one of the best days of my life.  I felt so grateful she was there. My mom was and still is my best friend.” 

Sheila had a special talent for making everyone she met feel so loved, as if they were her best friend. Sadly, she succumbed to breast cancer in February of this year.  However, her infectious spirit will live through all her friends and loved ones.

Kevin Takes the Baton for 2020

Shortly after Sheila’s passing, Kevin Fahrner, a friend of Anna’s and her sister Kara’s, decided to run the Chicago Marathon for Team Lynn Sage.  Kevin had run track throughout grade school, but had gotten away from running.  A half-marathon challenge from co-workers last year drove his competitive spirit, not only to compete, but to train to beat those co-workers.  (Of course he beat them by 10 minutes with a time of 1 hour and 53 minutes!!)  He quickly regained his love of running and entered more races.

“Running has been huge for me.  It’s very helpful to clear my head,“ Kevin says.

Since college, Kara’s friendship and then Anna’s have had a positive impact on Kevin.  When he decided it was time to tackle a full marathon, he wanted to support both a cause and people he really respected.  Through Sheila’s memory and the amazing, inspiring spirit she passed to her daughters, Kevin is motivated to crush both his time (under 4 hours) and fundraising goals.

“Even if they were to cancel the Chicago Marathon, I will be waking up that morning and running 26.2 miles somewhere!” declares Kevin.

On marathon day, Anna, Kara & Sheila’s spirit will be cheering him on with this sign:  You’re loving every, horrible, beautiful minute of this!  Go Kevin!

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