After Recovering From Leukemia, She’s Racing Marathons for a Cure

By | November 30, 2015
heather krasnov

Heather Krasnov, 54, was always active, but she didn’t make the jump from 5K to marathon until she faced a major life event: recovering from leukemia. In August 2001, at age 40, she was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, and doctors estimated that she had less than a 2 percent chance of surviving. Miraculously, after a month of treatment, she went into remission. “I’ve always been a glass-half-full kind of person,” says Heather, “so when doctors gave me the worst-case scenario, I looked on the bright side. And I think that’s what helped me survive.”

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Wanting to give back, Heather signed up with Team In Training, the fundraising arm of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, to walk the 2004 Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. “Having gone through treatment, all I could think about was children with leukemia,” explains Heather. “As an adult, you have an awareness of what’s happening to your body that kids don’t. We have to find a cure for them.”

After months of training, Heather was packed and ready to fly out for the marathon, but she stopped at the doctor’s office for a blood test. Then, in San Francisco, she completed a joyous first marathon. “It was really exciting! Once you get to mile 21, you’re like, ‘I’ve got this.'”

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But she and her husband returned home to six messages on her answering machine informing her that the leukemia was back. She needed immediate treatment. “I just said, ‘OK. I’ve got to do it. Here we go again,'” recalls Heather. “I’m not one to break down.”

With each relapse, Heather’s chances of reaching remission shrank dramatically. Fortunately, in November 2005, she had a lifesaving bone marrow transplant from her cousin Lynn; she’s been cancer-free since.

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After her recovery, Heather spent six years coaching for her local Team In Training chapter in Wilmington, N.C., and raised more than $26,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In November, she ran her 11th half marathon to celebrate 10 years of remission. “It’s a high, the entire race, every race,” she says. “When you start to hit the wall, you just think of the people lying in bed, going through treatment. It brings you back to why you’re doing it, and you just go.” The Canyon Ranch 35th Annual Inspiration Awards went to 70 people recognized for the inspiration they provide to others.

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