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Redemption, Recovery and Renewal

Boston College Alumna Finds Strength on Heartbreak Hill

Photo courtesy of Meghan Hickey

The finish line of the Boston Marathon is motivation enough for most runners. But when training gets tough, Meghan Hickey ’13 pictures Mile 21, the top of Heartbreak Hill, on Marathon Monday.

“Through most of the run, I don’t know that I’ll have many fans along the route, so I’m going to have to save my energy until I get to Boston College, see those towers, the BC students and my friends,” said Hickey. “I think about that moment all the time. Coming home. I know it’s going to be amazing.”

This year’s Boston Marathon has countless stories of redemption, recovery and renewal. Hickey, who is two years cancer-free, embraces the fact that her run represents all that – and more.

As a junior at BC, Hickey was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She cancelled a semester in Spain so she could return home to Chicago for radiation, chemotherapy and treatment. “Images of paella danced in my head as I watched the IV drip, drip drip...” she said.

Hickey participated in a clinical trial, funded in part from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which cut her time away from school from an entire year to a semester.

“I consider it my alternative semester abroad. Going through treatment and the trial, I just wanted to get back. And I was back for the marathon and was able to graduate with my class,” said Hickey. 

Photo courtesy of Meghan Hickey

“I really tried to put the experience behind me, didn’t talk about it much because I was always around so many healthy people, people who were the picture of health,” said Hickey.

After graduation, Hickey started working as a product support analyst. With her off-hours as her own, she dedicated more time to running. Hickey had run cross-country in high school, but was always a recreational jogger – a few laps around the reservoir were the most she’d do while at BC.

“The events of last year affected everyone in different ways. I found myself at my first job, with a lot of time on my hands and decided to start training. Boston has been my adopted city. I’d never be fast enough to qualify for a number so I decided to run through a charity,” said Hickey.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society was the natural choice. As she raised money, Hickey had to reveal her story to colleagues and new friends. The journey to raising $4,000 became therapeutic, and she has nearly doubled that total.

“When I was diagnosed with blood cancer, I was upset with very superficial things – missing tailgates, losing my hair. It’s only now, when I am a little older, that I can appreciate the impact of this research and the direct effect it had on people like me,” said Hickey. “I feel a responsibility to give back.”

As she trains alongside runners who were not allowed to finish the marathon last year, Hickey said she appreciates all the more the fact that this year’s race will be an important part of the city’s history.

“Our city has been through a true test. The sense of community, how we’re all coming back together, it makes me proud to be an adopted Bostonian,” said Hickey. “When I was sick, that feeling of coming back to BC was like a homecoming. This time, it’s only going to be better.”

Click here to contribute to Meghan Hickey’s fundraising

Read the next story in our 'BC & the Boston Marathon: One Year Later" series here