Chicago Proud: Cancer survivor to run 2018 Chicago Marathon

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Leesa Drake has been running for 25 years, but Sunday's Chicago Marathon will still be a special day.

Drake, who has completed 101 marathons, received a life-threatening cancer diagnosis last year.

Her resilience makes us Chicago Proud.

"I did as many as 17 marathons in one year," said Drake.

After turning 50 last year, Drake prepped for yet another marathon and felt like she was in great shape.

Then, in Spring of 2017, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Ethan Hixson, a physician assistant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, helped deliver the news to Drake. He said he was amazed at her positive attitude.

"She just took it in stride and was determined to beat it and get on with her life," said Hixson.

Drake had her sights set on completing the Chicago Marathon last October, but first she had to go through surgery.

She elected to have both breasts removed. Then came chemotherapy and radiation. She experienced nausea, fatigue and hair loss.

"I was like well, I'll keep doing what I can as long as I can and see how I tolerate the treatment," Drake said.

The medical team was aware of Drake's dedication to running, so they advised her to stay hydrated and take in enough calories to keep her energy levels up.

"We encouraged her to continue to train but be aware that she may be more tired than usual. She may not run as fast as she used to run," said Dr. Nora Hansen, surgeon.

Last year, in the middle of treatment, Drake completed the marathon.

Her son Adam, 8, was her main inspiration.

"It was a very social marathon for me. I had friends who hopped in and ran stretches. I had friends who said we'll be at this street corner," said Drake.

She was declared cancer-free last December. The 2018 Chicago Marathon will be her first as a survivor.
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