Following the loss of her 8-year-old daughter Jane to leukemia last year, Jil Fiemeyer has embarked on a journey to raise awareness and funds for leukemia research.
To honor Jane's legacy, Fiemeyer is doing something she's never tried before in her life.
Although she said she hasn't been a runner since she sprinted on the high school track team, Fiemeyer will attempt to run the Fargo Rocks half-marathon May 18 in Fargo. She is inspired not only by Jane's bravery, but that of the kids on the oncology floor at Tri-County Health Care where she works as well as children with cancer everywhere.
"All of these MRIs and CTs and all that - if they can do that, I figure the least I can do is 13.1 miles," Fiemeyer said.
While she trains, her goal is to raise $2,500 for leukemia and lymphoma research, as well as the cost of entering the race. The money goes to the Minnesota branch of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), a national group dedicated to the struggle against cancer.
Along with fundraising, Fiemeyer also hopes to bring attention to the danger posed by leukemia. She said a 90 percent cure rate exists for the disease, but the remaining 10 percent is still an unacceptable number.
"You would think 90 percent is pretty good, but Jane died," Fiemeyer said. "In that 10 percent, it's not perfect."
Fiemeyer is part of a group within LLS called Team in Training (TNT), which helps organize efforts to help the anti-cancer fight through training for events like races. The group runs together in the Twin Cities, making it difficult for Fiemeyer to join in, but she still gets workout schedules and advice from a TNT coach. She also gets a mentor to help keep her motivated.
Fiemeyer said her mentor, Katie Locke of Eden Prairie, has even offered to have Fiemeyer stay at her home for a night so she can run with the rest of the TNT group.
Locke said she first met Fiemeyer and Jane through Locke's boyfriend, who is a leukemia survivor.
"I think Jil is a leader, and she is one of the most intelligent yet driven people I know," Locke said. "I think if anybody can make a difference in raising awareness about childhood leukemia, it's Jil."
Fiemeyer told of the gratitude she felt toward those around her who had already shown so much support; friends, family and coworkers. She named fellow TCHC employee Holly Weller as someone who's helped push her onward, but Weller said Fiemeyer is already determined to complete what she's set out to do.
"Her drive is what I see," Weller said. "It's not uncharacteristic of her to go ahead and take the bull by the horns."
Fiemeyer said her motivation could best be described with the words of a 9-year-old girl who also had leukemia and reached out to her after hearing of Jane's story.
"'I asked my mom to make a donation today so other kids can say that they're survivors too,'" Fiemeyer quoted. "That to me was just the biggest thing. That's exactly why I'm running, too. This 9-year-old just was more articulate about it than I am - so other kids can say they're survivors too."
To donate, visit TNT's website at teamintraining.org. Once at the website, one can donate specifically through Fiemeyer by clicking on the "Donate" tab and searching.