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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    A Mother fulfills her promise to her daughter

    Liz Kelly, a swimmer at Stony Brook University, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and died hours before her 20th birthday. Her mother organized an annual run in her honor. (Photo Credit: Stony Brook University)

    Just before 11 a.m. on a cloudy and humid morning, 300 participants eagerly waited at the starting line for the “Liz Kelly Run for the Sun” to begin.

    “There was a lot of excitement about the race from friends and all the runners,” said Patti Kelly, Liz’s mother and organizer of the event. Kelly started this event, which took place on Sept. 25 at Dublin Deck Marina in Patchogue in honor of her daughter, Elizabeth Kelly, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, and died on Dec. 22, 2010.

    Elizabeth Kelly joined the Stony Brook community as a spirited freshman and member of the swim team in August 2009. Liz had been a competitive swimmer for over 10 years and always had a passion for the sport. As a member of the swim team, Liz started every day by running a 5K and training for two hours in the pool. Almost immediately after joining the team, Liz was feeling unusually tired and was experiencing pain in her side. As time passed, the extreme exhaustion as well as the various aches and pains continued.

    “Quitting? That had never been in Liz’s vocabulary before, she always made and completed the goals she wished to accomplish,” said Kelly. But Liz felt she did not have the stamina to keep up and took a leave from the team. After a few visits to the doctor, Liz was diagnosed with stage four undifferentiated carcinoma, a very rare form of cancer.

    Doctors gave Liz three months to live because the cancer had already spread through most of her body. She immediately began treatments at Stony Brook Medical Center, and had a positive response to her treatments, and she began to improve.

    “We all thought she might be that miracle,” said Kelly. Sadly, in September 2010, scans showed new growths in her lungs. Doctors were forced to try other types of medication because Liz could not have any more chemo as a result of the damage to her body. A few months later, the cancer spread to her brain. On Dec. 22, 2010, Liz passed away, just hours before her 20th birthday.

    “Throughout her treatment, she never once said, ‘why me?’, she never complained, she was full of hope and love, courage and faith,” explained Kelly.

    Before Liz passed, Patti promised her daughter she would continue to fight in her memory. After being approached by the director of Parks and Recreation from the Patchogue Beach Club, a club that she and her girls have worked and volunteered for for many years, she decided to organize the “Liz Kelly Run for the Sun.” It is her desire to help the pediatric oncology research department at Stony Brook Hospital and this is how she plans to keep her promise to Liz.

    During the summer, a kickoff dinner was held at The Oar in Patchogue. At this dinner, $1,300 was raised, which Kelly donated to the Sunrise Fund, a fund created to help raise awareness about childhood cancer and support pediatric programs at the Stony Brook University Medical Center. In addition to the money that was raised at this dinner, another $8,000 is being sent to the Sunrise Fund from the money raised at the 5K.

    Many from the Stony Brook community came to the race to run and help volunteer including the swim team, and some of the hospital staff. Support was shown through personalized T-shirts from a close friend of Liz, Patti Kelly, and a local sign company.

    When Patti Kelly was asked if the “Liz Kelly Run for the Sun” would become a tradition, she responded, “Yes, this will be an annual event-next year tentatively scheduled for Sept. 22, 2012.” She hopes to partner with Stony Brook, which not only wants to help but has a large database of runners.

    Patti Kelly, her family, and friends are excited to keep the tradition going in honor of Elizabeth Kelly.

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