Under sunny skies and cheered on by friends and family, Montgomery resident and breast cancer survivor Mary Wilson, 39, completed a virtual version of the annual Fox Valley Half Marathon in the village's Lakewood Creek subdivision Sunday morning, Sept. 13.
Wilson was first diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2019 after performing a self-examination - a practice she strongly advocates - and later underwent a mastectomy surgery.
"I was so terrified when I was first diagnosed. I was a complete and total basket case, crying all the time and terrified that I was not going to make it. All I did was research until four in the morning and try and find statistics that would show I was going to be okay."
Throughout chemotherapy and radiation, Wilson chose to keep running and participating in marathons and half marathons. When asked why she chose to continue to run during her treatment, she said it was to maintain some normalcy in her life.
"It makes you way healthier," she said of running. "You're going to have an easier time with everything. (And) I wanted to be physically healthy. I wanted my kids to see that it was okay, that mom was still exercising and things were going to be fine."
Wilson worked hard to support her children following her diagnosis in part because the mother of one of her son's best friends died of breast cancer in 2019.
Referring to her son, Wilson said, "As long as he saw me keep going, I was fine."
Due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's Fox Valley Half Marathon was run virtually, which Wilson completed Sunday with her friend Becky Lane. The two runners finished with a time of 2:55:38, an accomplishment Wilson called "totally great."
The two made their way through the subdivision, eventually finishing at Blackberry Crossing Park, where friends and family waited for them with flowers, water and a jar of Nutella for Wilson.
Sunday's run marked the 10 consecutive year that Wilson has run the half marathon, which is usually held along the banks of the Fox River between St. Charles and Batavia.
"I run this race every single year. I walked it during chemo last year in the rain, I ran it pregnant, I ran it right after I had my last kid, I have not missed this. I scheduled my surgery next week around this half marathon," she said.
In addition to the Fox Valley Half Marathon, Wilson has completed between 30 and 34 half marathons, and has run the Chicago and Milwaukee marathons back-to-back.
Wilson emphasized that breast cancer is survivable.
"It's unfortunate, but keep being active, keep going and self-check and it's going to be okay," she said, adding, "It's your story, as everyone kept reminding me. It is survivable, and you're going to be okay. Keep living your life because you don't want to lose everything."