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Cancer won’t stop this woman from running Philadelphia Half Marathon

When Emily Molitoris met the DetermiNation Team for the first time at the 2014 Philadelphia Marathon Expo, she felt an immediate connection.

Molitoris, 26 of Point Breeze, is a cancer survivor and a runner. Shortly after hearing about the group, she signed up to be an athlete and a coach.

The program gives runners the opportunity to dedicate their participation in a race to the fight against cancer. Participants agree to a fundraising goal of at least $500 for the American Cancer Society by receiving donations of any amount from family, friends and sponsors. In return, the program offers training and support to help runners achieve their goals.

"We are a running team that fundraises," Molitoris said. "It is really unbelievable how we can all get together and put our miles towards the mission."

This year, Molitoris is running the half marathon and aiming to fundraise $1,500 to help save lives that would have otherwise been lost to cancer.

Learning to run all over again

Molitoris' personal journey with cancer started in April 2014 when she was diagnosed with Stage IV malignant melanoma after having a wart-like spot on her left leg removed. Doctors told her that she wouldn't be able to run or even do yoga — her two biggest passions — for at least a month.

This would put a halt to her training for the 2014 Philadelphia Marathon.

Then, more testing seemed to reveal that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. She was told she would need to undergo another surgery to remove all the lymph nodes on the left side of her body. Running again suddenly seemed like a pipe dream.

"Running is my life so I insisted they do more testing to confirm if it had spread or not," Molitoris said.

After a second opinion, doctors were confident that the cancer had not spread.

"Needless to say I was relieved," Molitoris said.

Describing her first time lacing up after being cleared to run again, Molitoris said, "It was foreign yet familiar. I was out of breath and uncomfortable, but I was running."

Without the fear of more surgeries lurking, Molitoris was finally able to get back to her training plan for the 2014 Philadelphia Marathon.

Of course, those first few runs were not without their challenges.

"I was left with a 19-inch incision and lost over a quarter of my thigh," Molitoris recalled. "It was painful and I was cautious. It was basically like I had to learn how to run again."

But Molitoris persevered. She finished the 2014 marathon in 3:48:47.

To prepare for this year's half marathon, Molitoris has been following the DetermiNation training plan, which includes Saturday group runs and working with local running coach Faye Hellman.

Hitting the starting line on Saturday will be especially bittersweet for Molitoris, who recently lost her grandmother to bladder cancer. She is running this race in her honor.

"When you feel like there is nothing left you can do, you can run," Molitoris said.

If you are interested in donating to Molitoris' cause, visit her fundraising page here.

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