Pediatric cancer survivor’s mom runs to give back to Dana-Farber

Sarah Byrne is training for her fifth B.A.A. Half Marathon® with Dana-Farber’s team. She was motivated to run with Dana-Farber to honor her son Cian, who was diagnosed with stage III hepatoblastoma, a rare form of liver cancer, at age 2. His cancer was found after abnormal blood tests, limping, and signs of back pain led his primary care physician to order X-rays and an ultrasound in 2014.  “The doctor called to tell us that Cian had a tumor and that we would be visiting Dana-Farber the very next day,” recalls Sarah. “We walked in and there was a room of six to seven people. It was scary and overwhelming, but the team was well prepared. They thought of every possible resource needed to make us feel comfortable.”

Cian’s tumor was initially too large to operate on. He went through four rounds of chemotherapy before being cleared for surgery to remove the tumor and three-quarters of his liver in January 2015. He went through two more rounds of treatment before he was officially “three and cancer-free” in March 2015. Today, Cian is seven years cancer-free and has graduated from frequent visits to Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic to annual check-ins at the David B. Perini Jr. Quality of Life Clinic— a program providing care, research, support, and advocacy for childhood cancer survivors and their families at Dana-Farber.

Sarah started running to stay in shape and as a form of stress relief throughout Cian’s treatments. She was initially drawn to Dana-Farber Running Programs after Cian was chosen to be a patient partner for the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge a few years ago. Though the Boston Marathon® was intriguing, she recognized that she didn’t have the time to commit to training for a full marathon while her family recovered from this traumatic time. Training for the B.A.A. Half Marathon seemed like an attainable goal to set for herself, and the opportunity to run to give back to Dana-Farber convinced her that there was no better time than the present to register back in 2018.

Running 13.1 miles hasn’t been easy for Sarah throughout her first few half marathons, but she knows that there are harder life challenges such as facing a cancer diagnosis, which help her to put her training efforts into perspective.  “My goal is not to win the race, it’s to get to the finish line,” shares Sarah.  “When I want to give up, I picture my child hooked up to chemo or after surgery on life support, and think ‘just keep going, this is nothing.’” Sarah decided to start her own team for this year’s B.A.A. Half Marathon to invite friends and family to run with her and help support Dana-Farber’s mission to defy cancer. She’s hopeful that their support will continue to help Dana-Farber find cures and develop treatment plans that are less harmful for pediatric patients. “Running for Dana-Farber means so much more than words can express,” shares Sarah. “Our team at Dana-Farber gave us the gift of more time with our precious boy. We are forever grateful that Cian is now seven years cancer-free, thanks to the lifesaving care that he received from the Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana-Farber.”

Support runners like Sarah and make a donation to Dana-Farber’s B.A.A. Half Marathon® team today. Your donation will support The Dana-Farber Campaign, our ambitious, multi-year fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer. The Dana-Farber Campaign will accelerate the Institute’s strategic priorities by supporting revolutionary science, extraordinary care, and exceptional expertise. As a community, we have the power to create a more hopeful, cancer-free future—in Boston and around the world. Together, we can defy cancer at every turn. Learn more about The Dana-Farber Campaign and how you can get involved at