“This is way more than a race.” Team JAF runner taking on Falmouth for brother-in-law diagnosed with stage III colorectal cancer 

Emily Hannen had her sights set on the 50th annual AICIS Falmouth Road Race this August. She entered the race lottery–where runners can gain entry through their name being drawn–and unfortunately didn’t get in. A friend of Emily’s suggested running for charity instead. Suddenly, the light bulb turned on in Hannen’s head.

Emily chose to run for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation and Team JAF in honor of her brother-in-law, John, who was diagnosed with stage III colorectal cancer in March of 2021 at 37-years-old and battled it for a year and won. This, however, wasn’t the first time Hannen and her family had heard of the Foundation.

Team JAF Runner Emily Hannen and Family
John is top left with Red Sox hat and Emily is bottom right in turquoise shirt

“My friend Brianne said ‘you should reach out to this foundation (that being JAF). They’re really helpful with people going through cancer treatment,” Hannen said when discussing how her family became aware of JAF.

With JAF’s help, John and Hannen’s sister were able to get support in paying for items such as their mortgage and groceries and even having JAF regularly checking in to see how they were doing. In Hannen’s mind, running Falmouth now became something else entirely.

“Now this is way more than a race,” Hannen said. “This is about how can I give back to a foundation that’s helped my sister and brother-in-law and [have] been incredible to a lot of people.”

John’s cancer treatment consisted of more than a dozen weeks of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, and multiple surgeries. When describing her brother-in-law’s cancer journey, Hannen simply said “it’s been a long, long road.”

The camaraderie Hannen and her brother-in-law share is one of a decade’s worth of friendship, sharing similar senses of humor, and being a tight-knit family––with Hannen living within miles of her sister and brother-in-law in Worcester, MA. All the more reason as to how significant John’s diagnosis and battle was to Hannen.

“It wasn’t just a random family member,” Hannen said. “It was tough to see him go through it.”

“He had a regular, normal life and all of the sudden you’re going through chemo, radiation, and surgery,” Hannen added. “It’s a completely different shift.”

Hannen detailed how her family banded together around the hashtag #TeamJohn and how it can take a village to get through such a path as cancer.

“It definitely brought us closer as strange as that is,” Hannen said. “I just tried to do what I could to help them whether it was making them food or watching their kids. How can we all help support (him) in whatever way he needs.”

When Hannen was asked about John’s mentality during his cancer journey, she talked about how strong and upbeat he’d been.

“He was really great through everything,” Hannen said. “He was really transparent about it.  If that brings awareness to one other person to get checked with certain symptoms, that would mean the world.”

While Hannen has experience running with completing a half marathon a couple of years ago and doing the occasional 5k, her first Falmouth Road Race training has involved a regimen of running three times a week mixed in with strength training. When questioned about what she expects from the Falmouth course and its hills, Hannen talked about utilizing whatever adrenaline she’ll have come August 21.

“I think the race day endorphins will get me through however the course is,” Hannen said with a chuckle.

Still, Hannen doesn’t view the race as simply a seven-mile sprint through Falmouth. It’s about honoring John’s fight and triumph over cancer and giving back to help support other patients and families like hers.

“You know there’s only so much you can do for when they’re going through treatment. If you can help take one thing off their plate, it does make a big difference.”

To learn more about Emily and Team JAF’s 2022 Falmouth runners, click here!

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