Sheri Bryant had never been a runner.
But when her son Camden was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at 21 months and began spending countless hours enduring chemotherapy at the Raish Peavey Haskell Children’s Cancer and Treatment Center in the Lafayette Family Cancer Institute in Brewer, she began promoting cancer awareness.
The Champion the Cure Challenge is held every year to raise money for cancer awareness and it starts at the Lafayette Center. In 2013, Bryant decided to run the 5-kilometer race.
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“If Camden could go through all he was going through, I figured I could do that,” said Bryant, who is grateful to the staff at the Haskell Center for the compassionate way they cared for him.
In undertaking the Champion the Cure Challenge, Bryant discovered that she loved running. She began training to do a marathon, a goal she accomplished last May when she ran the Sugarloaf Marathon in Carrabassett Valley.
This year’s Sugarloaf Marathon has been canceled, but Bryant still wants to raise funds for the Haskell Center. Instead, she will embark on May 17 on her own personal marathon starting at 7 a.m. at her home in Eddington.
“Even though Sugarloaf was canceled, I still wanted to run a marathon in honor of Camden, all the children and all the caregivers at the center. They have been amazing,” Bryant said.
Camden Bryant eventually underwent 1,219 days of treatment including several days devoted to chemotherapy. He completed his chemotherapy in 2015. He still gets regular checkups.
“He is happy and healthy. It has been a miracle. We’re so lucky,” Bryant said.
Camden has been a source of tremendous inspiration for her.
“He has persevered through so much and he has always had a smile for everybody. He’s very easygoing,” Bryant said.
“You should never say you can’t do something. You can live through things. You can survive and conquer,” she said.
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The former Sheri Burns, a Topsham native, teaches second grade at the Brewer Community School. She has been performing those duties from her home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 46-year-old Bryant and husband Dan have two other children, daughters Sienna, 13, and Carmen, 11. Camden turns 10 in September.
Bryant graduated from Mt. Ararat High School and earned a chemical engineering degree from Clarkson University in New York. She decided to follow other members of her family into the teaching profession after a stint as a chemical engineer.
She has a regular running routine and uses Saturday as her top mileage day.
Bryant said her first marathon last year was memorable.
“It was cool and rainy. When we started out it was 42 degrees,” Bryant said. “I just wanted to enjoy it. I wasn’t looking to set any records. I tend to be a big smiler so I smiled at people when I was running but I noticed that nobody was smiling back at me,” she joked.
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There was a downpour at mile 23 and she walked a stretch at mile 24 before finishing the Sugarloaf Marathon.
“The best part was seeing my family. The Sugarloaf course is amazing and your family can drive along and support you,” she said. “They embraced me at the end.”
Bryant had given thought to crossing the marathon off her bucket list but, a few weeks later, she felt she was capable of running another one a little faster. That prompted her to run this year’s Sugarloaf Marathon which instead will become her own personal event.
“It’s for a good cause as well,” she said. “I wanted to give back [to the Haskell Center].”
Bryant said she hopes to serve as an inspiration to her children.
Those interested in donating to her marathon for the Haskell Center may do so at northernlighthealth.org/sheri (.)
Donations will be accepted through June 7.