Why I Chose to Run with the American Cancer Society

Belicia T. Tan
5 min readJan 6, 2024

Support the lives of those impacted by cancer by giving here — donations go towards ACS cancer research to better the lives of survivors, patients, caretakers, healthcare professionals, family members, and more…

Read more below on why I’ll be partnering with the American Cancer Society for the NYRR United Airlines 2024 Half Marathon.

In 2006, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

As a kid, I knew little about the implications of this news, but I couldn’t help but wonder what this truly meant — was this how it all ends, would this mean I’d grow up with no mother, would I suddenly have to care for myself and my sister, how likely is it that cancer patients beat the odds…

The questions were endless. The possibilities were innumerable. The emotional weight was burdensome.

For the next year or two, my mom went through countless surgeries, rounds of chemotherapy, treatment, radiation etc. — at the time, one of the most extensive course of treatment a cancer patient can go through. I prayed each night that this round would be the last, and that my mom could walk away cancer free, but each time, the news was not in our favor. Further treatment had to be conducted.

The following Summer my family had a trip planned to Hawaii, but it was on the condition that my mom didn’t have to go through further treatment — it was one of our favorite destinations as a family. Eventually faced with the reality of the circumstances, we had to forgo the trip to prioritize my mom’s health. Disappointed, we continued to hope that this battle would see its end sooner than we knew.

Throughout this journey, the reality of this on the impact of our future was pain staking to swallow — what-if questions engulfed our minds day in and day out, I even distinctly remembering my mom looking at my younger sister and I in the eye, and saying that she couldn’t be sure that she would see us graduate, get married, have grandkids — all the major milestones any parent-child would hope to be able to live to see together. Frankly, I didn’t know either — what if the cancer came back, what if the treatment didn’t work, what if things only worsened; the future remained as a mystery waiting to unfold.

But fast forward to Summer of 2021, we had the fortunate opportunity to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of my mom being cancer free in Hawaii — taking the trip we had hoped to take many summers ago. And fast forward to present day, I feel so fortunate that my mom has been here to see my sister and I through several core milestones, including both of our college graduations, and soon-to-be another for my sister, and as a family, we’ve had the chance to cherish countless moments together since then.

Celebrating 15 years cancer-free on Mother’s Day in May 2021 |📍Hapuna Beach, Hawaii

However, I recognize that not everyone is fortunate enough to see their loved one survive — many, including several within our circle of friends and family, have had parents, friends etc. taken away by cancer, or even experiencing relapses where the cancer has come back. Many whom have grieved the both the “what ifs,” and the “what is “— grieving the future they imagined with their loved one, but never being able to live it out with them. The thought of that brings me immense pain for those who have or are going through this — I can only imagine how difficult, or even unfair that journey must have felt or feels.

Something throughout this journey that moved me was the compassion our community had shown to us during the years my mom battled cancer. The endless number of friends and family members who cooked for us, dropped of necessities and goods, drove my sister and I around, prayed for us, checked in on us, supported us financially — looking back, the abundance of love was tremendous and moving, and all done so sacrificially, yet so willingly.

This eventually became part of an inspiration for me to pursue a career in healthcare, where I would be able to pursue my deeply seeded compassion for people — in hopes of being able to care for patients, and empower healthcare professionals. Eventually having the opportunity to work with patients at bedside as a Nurse Assistant, and later, an opportunity on the administrative side of healthcare, to further research and development into medicine and treatment plans for cancer and rare diseases.

And from 2008–2014, I also had the opportunity to fundraise for American Cancer Society as a participant in Relay for Life through my middle and high school, and I’m elated for the opportunity to give back again, in a different capacity a decade later.

On March 17, 2024, I will be running the NYRR United Half Marathon with the American Cancer Society, to further the research and development of cancer treatments, so that patients, and families and friends of patients can too have the opportunity to live to see those milestone moments in this life together as I had the blessed opportunity of having. And for those who have lost a loved one to cancer, I’d also like to dedicate this run to people like you — my heart is with you, and for you; I can only imagine how much your heart must yearn for their presence, or even for one more moment with your loved one(s), or even the desire to know why it all had to happen, or even self-guilt in wishing you could have done more to help. Sometimes the depths of our pain can feel inexplicable, and incomprehensible, but I hope you know that it is okay to feel like life takes more than it gives sometimes, or that life can’t ever seem to cut us some slack; the journey alongside any cancer patient is beyond what the words difficult, tough, and challenging can encapsulate, but I also believe in hope — where there’s a downhill, there’s an uphill, and where there’s no hope, there’s hope in something more.

First half marathon in April 2022 | 📍Brooklyn, New York

Will you join me in supporting the lives of those impacted by cancer? For those battling, caregiving, treating and grieving the loss of a loved one to cancer…

Learn more on how you can support here!

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Belicia T. Tan

Product Ops @ Indeed // Founding team @ladder.to // Founder @girlswhoconsult