A Marathon of Support: Amber’s Story

Visiting Oregon’s beautiful coastline, taking leisurely hikes and enjoying the great outdoors are just a few things Amber Bell loves to do with her husband and three daughters. She also loves to run. Amber is always looking for ways to incorporate long distance runs into her life, whether it’s a 5K with her family in her home state of Utah, or completing a marathon on her own in Oregon, where she currently resides.

A few years ago, Amber noticed she felt differently when she ran—she couldn’t go as far or as fast as she was once able to, which struck her as odd. Additionally, she felt sick to her stomach and had an overall feeling of being “off.” Her doctor initially suspected the symptoms were attributed to the fact that Amber recently had a baby. However, tests revealed otherwise: Amber had stage 4 colon cancer. The diagnosis came as a huge shock to her, especially because she lived a healthy and active lifestyle. “I was taking care of my body and I was like, ‘What’s happening? I’m active and I’m healthy and I’m strong. This doesn’t happen to people like me.’ I felt really betrayed by my body,” Amber recalls.

To treat her cancer, Amber underwent surgery and then began bi-weekly chemotherapy treatments. Despite going through chemotherapy, Amber wanted to return to running. With her family’s support, she set out for her first-post surgery run, which she remembers vividly: she left her watch and phone at home so she could be completely invested in what she was doing and less focused on how fast or how far she was going. The feeling was like no other. “I remember bursting into tears, like, ‘I can do this!’” she recalls. ””It was a very emotional experience for me. It was empowering, like, “My cancer is not in control of me. I am in control.’”

Amber’s next goal? Run the Boston Marathon, of course. A pinnacle for runners, the Boston Marathon is something she had always aspired to complete one day. Since it would be her first marathon after being diagnosed with cancer, Amber knew qualifying for the race would not be in the cards. Instead, she decided to reach out to her network of friends for ideas on how she could participate as a charity runner. That’s when she found Boston Medical Center and Team BMC. The idea of fulfilling her dream of running the Boston Marathon while also fundraising for an organization was a no brainer. More so, Amber’s cancer journey gave her a unique appreciation for doctors and nurses like the ones at BMC and a connection to patients who are in the exact same position as she is. “It’s a way for me to feel like I can give back, not necessarily exactly to people who helped me but to help someone else who may need it,” she says of her “why” for running with Team BMC. “It’s a win-win.”

When it comes to Marathon Monday, Amber is feeling ready and looking forward to having her family in Boston with her to cheer her on. The thought of crossing the finish line, though overwhelming, invokes a sense of gratitude. “[I am grateful] my body is doing something really difficult and for all the people who donate,” she says. “This is something that I am accomplishing by no means but my own.”