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Jack Knox: Two women, one year later: another health crisis, another marathon

Last time we saw them run, it was Lise who was in the lead, Grace a little farther back as her shadow, her support.
Lise Berube, who has stage four cancer, is planning to run a marathon on May 8. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST.

Last time we saw them run, it was Lise who was in the lead, Grace a little farther back as her shadow, her support.

That was in May last year, when Lise Berube, fresh off five rounds of radiation on her brain and with more chemotherapy looming, decided it would be best not to wait for the October marathon she had signed up for. Instead, she and her running buddy Grace Lore would complete the 42.2-kilometre distance themselves, four laps of the trail ringing Elk and Beaver Lakes.

And that’s what they did. When 38-year-old Berube broke through the makeshift finish line banner held by her four- and six-year-old children, it was a life-affirming moment, made even more poignant by the knowledge that she had stage four cancer. “Heartbreaking and inspirational” was the way a young mother who stumbled across the run described it.

Much has changed since then. First, Lore ran for office and was elected MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill last fall. Then, on Christmas Day, the two friends decided to run another marathon, again using it to raise money for the Callanish Society, a small Vancouver-based non-profit that supports people living with and dying from cancer. And then, in February, Grace’s four-year-old son Asher was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Good God, what are the chances? Who could have imagined it would be Lore’s family that would be sent reeling by a health crisis this time? Who would have thought that it would be Berube supporting Lore as they train for a May 8 marathon that now seems even more improbable than the first?

“Running with Lise during this time has helped me maintain my energy, helped me cope, and saved my mental health,” Lore said this week. “She has been a huge support to me, dropping everything to run with me after scary appointments and listening to me cry during our runs about our treatable tumour as she goes on with treatment for her stage four cancer.

“We ran 34 kilometres one Sunday before I had to get on a ferry to head back to Vancouver to B.C. Children’s [Hospital] and last weekend I returned from B.C. Children’s Friday evening and she dragged me through another 36 kilometres Saturday morning.”

The positive news is that Asher’s medical team believes his tumour, while in a bad spot, can be treated fairly safely.

Another positive: Berube’s cancer has slowed its advance. The breast cancer she was diagnosed with in 2016 had metastasized to her heart and lungs by 2019, and spots were found on her brain in February of last year, but since that May’s run things have been OK. “My scans have all been more or less stable since June 2020,” she says.

So she and Lore run — two, three, four times a week, maybe 60 kilometres in total. It’s therapeutic, Berube says. “We use our runs as our decompressing time.”

They also use them to train for that May 8 fundraiser, another four laps around Elk and Beaver Lakes.

They call it Move Because You Can, a name that reflects the unpredictability of life, the knowledge that any of us can, out of the blue, have the ground fall out from beneath our feet. It also reflects our current reality, when COVID prevents us from doing so much. “We all feel so stuck,” Berube says. Can’t travel. Can’t see friends. “But I can go for a run and I can go for a bike.”

So can the 300 or so other Callanish Society supporters who have signed on to run, walk and cycle a variety of distances in a variety of places: Edmonton, Calgary, the Yukon, all over B.C., and as far away as London, England. Locally, some plan to run one 10-kilometre loop of the Elk/Beaver trail, while others will complete bike rides at the park, though all are being encouraged to keep distance from one another.

As of Friday, donations had topped $130,000, more than twice the amount the two women raised last May. You can read more about it by following the links at

Given the circumstances, that’s remarkable. Given the circumstances, no one could have blamed either woman for abandoning the idea altogether.

Did they consider dropping out? “Not a chance,” Lore says. “Callanish means too much to her and she means too much to me.”

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