Team TargetCancer Foundation Runner Profile: Marie Halpin

Apr 15, 2016 | News, Events, Patient Stories

By Doreen Darsh, TargetCancer Foundation Writer

Marie Halpin knows how to go the distance. She’ll be running with Team TargetCancer Foundation in this year’s Boston Marathon. It will be her third. Yes, you read that correctly – her third.

 When I spoke with Marie on March 19, she told me, “Running has helped me. I’d tie my shoes and go.” She said it without fanfare and with a quiet confidence that inspired me to consider that maybe I could just tie my shoes and go to develop a little more consistency with my own running.

When we chatted on the phone it had been less than one month since her father, Pasquale Domanico’s, death from esophageal cancer on February 23.

“My parents died within a few days of each other, but different years,” Marie said, “My mom, Maria, 72, died on a leap year – February 29, 2012— from cholangiocarcinoma, and four years later my dad died at 81.



Maria and Pasquale Domanico


“Yes, my support was my running group,” Marie said, “We’d run and cry and talk.”

I could hear the love in her voice as she began to tell me about her parents. Maria, known as Nonna to her grandchildren, was a seamstress and had just retired when she was diagnosed in June 2011. Marie explained how her mom would be comforted that the anniversary of her death would only fall on the calendar every four years. “She wouldn’t want us to be so sad,” she said. And three years after Maria’s death, in June 2015, Pasquale, or Nonno, a retired machinist for the Ford Motor Company and a master gardener, was diagnosed.

Marie and her three sisters and brother of Italian descent were born in northern France and had immigrated as young children to the United States with their parents. Marie (Pascale) Halpin was named for her parents Maria and Pasquale. Over the years the family had grown to include 14 grandchildren. When Maria became ill, the whole family pulled together to help out.



Maria, Pasquale, and their grandchildren.


I asked Marie, “As you advocated for your mother (and later, your father) to get the medical care they needed, what was the most helpful thing you learned?”

“Educate yourself,” Marie said, “To learn is huge. Be informed, in order to ask the right questions. Build relationships with your family and the doctors and the medical team. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your doctor. They need to speak in a way you can understand.”

But, like training for a marathon, this learning came in steps. Sometimes during a medical visit, Marie told me, she listened and did not ask the doctors a question because she was hesitant. But then she went home, did some research, and had her questions ready the next time. Being an upper elementary school teacher, Marie knew how valuable education and knowledge can be. She lives in Birmingham, Michigan, with her husband and two sons and teaches reading and math.

When Marie met Executive Director Jim Palma at the annual Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation conference in Salt Lake City she had already qualified for the Boston Marathon. She will be running in memory of her parents and for all those who are challenged by cholangiocarcinoma and esophageal cancer.

We wish her the best!