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Guest Blog: Training for the Boston Marathon Gave Me the Push I Needed

Published on April 25, 2022 in Survivor, Event Participant, Fundraising, Stories, In the Community

by Mike Squillante

A few hundred feet from the 2022 Boston Marathon finish line, I saw my pregnant wife, Michele, on my right-hand side. A rush of emotions overcame me at that moment. Only 235 days earlier, doctors diagnosed me with a brain tumor. 

On August 26, 2021, my wife Michele, our then 8-month-old son Henry, and I were leaving for our first family vacation. Moments before leaving, Michele walked into the kitchen to find me unconscious on the floor and Henry hysterical. Later, we learned I had a grade 2 astrocytoma. Unfortunately, this type of tumor is considered invasive and expected to grow back. There is currently no cure.

MRI image of a brain featuring a large mass.
 An MRI of Mike’s brain tumor

One day, I was a healthy, active, 28-year-old lacrosse coach and physical education teacher. The next day, I am one of the estimated 103,600 Americans living with a primary, malignant brain tumor diagnosis.

Since surgery in August, we have been fortunate to have hundreds of families reach out and support us. During the tough miles of the marathon, I kept thinking about all of the people that have been there for my family and me. Those thoughts made the experience emotional but very enjoyable. 

Being a Gray Nation Endurance athlete has given me the opportunity to do something I enjoy and do it for a purpose — to find a cure. Joining a team with like-minded people who have similar values is a motivation that is difficult to put into words. If I hadn’t met this team at the beginning of the year, I’m not sure where I would be today. 

A 28-year-old man gives a thumbs up while on the Boston Marathon course. He is wearing an orange race shirt, black shorts, and gym shoes.
 Mike during the Boston Marathon

When I applied for the opportunity to run in the Boston Marathon, one of the most well-known marathons in the world, I did not expect to be selected. ​​I had been interested in fundraising for years but had never pulled the trigger. After my diagnosis, I selfishly wanted to fundraise for a cure. I am honored that NBTS chose me to represent them in the Boston Marathon. 

Over 300 families have donated to my fundraising page and supported me. Hundreds of people have emailed, texted, called, or showed up at my house. It has been a surreal experience. When I got this opportunity, I stressed about raising $10,000. I am shocked and humbled by the way my local community has contributed over $31,000 to help find a cure. I hope that my story inspires others with a similar diagnosis to get out there and support the cause.

During National Volunteer Week 2022, NBTS honored Mike with the Gray Nation Endurance Extra Mile Award for his extreme endurance, strength, and perseverance both through his race efforts and his recovery after being diagnosed with a Grade II Astrocytoma last August. Mike’s commitment to this mission is exemplified through his Boston Marathon efforts to raise over $31,000 for NBTS and his passion for building a community of support throughout his recovery.

Gray Nation Endurance is the official endurance program of the National Brain Tumor Society. You can join Gray Nation Endurance®️ by applying for one of NBTS’s charity teams — as Mike did with the Boston Marathon — or by selecting a race or endurance activity of your choice to celebrate a survivor, pay tribute to a loved one, or make an overall difference in the fight against brain tumors.

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