BY Molly Congdon
NEW YORK CITY — On Nov. 1, Michela Mosso of Amsterdam — a patient care technician at Ellis Hospital and yoga instructor at Power Yoga New York in Niskayuna — lined up with thousands of others at the starting line of the New York City Marathon in Staten Island.
“I never was a runner until my aunt got diagnosed with ovarian cancer three years ago,” said Mosso, 24. “Running helped me deal with all of the stresses of having a loved one with cancer. When she was put on hospice care back in April, I was taken over by the emotions and needed an outlet, something to focus on other than the fact that my aunt was dying. So I signed up for the New York City Marathon as a goal, but I didn’t actually expect that I was actually going to run it.”
The day her aunt passed, in June, Mosso went on an eight-mile run. “I didn’t want anybody else to have to deal with losing a loved one to cancer,” she said. “I wanted to give something back in memory of my aunt so that’s why I decided to run for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.”
She was able to raise just over $6,100 for the hospital that has helped so many patients suffering from cancer’s metastasizing nature.
Mosso ran for Fred’sTeam, Memorial Sloan Kettering’s athletic fundraising program, which has the sole purpose of getting closer to a world without cancer. Since 1995, it has raised more than $64 million, all of which has gone directly toward MSKCC.
“Fred Lebow is who the team is named after — he was the founder of the NYC Marathon — and he was diagnosed with leukemia and was a patient at Sloan Kettering,” Mosso said. “From the stuff that I’ve read, he used to run up and down the halls and still continued to run the marathon while receiving chemo. He passed away and in his memory they came up with this team.”
She continued: “The cool thing is that you can pick which area of cancer research that you want your money to go to. So being that my aunt went there for ovarian cancer treatments, I wanted the money to go back to ovarian cancer. For me, I think it’s neat that I’m running on the team that was named after the guy that created the marathon.”
Mosso was also the only person from the Capital Region running on the team.
The training was extremely taxing and seemed undoable, especially when Netflix was calling. “I just kind of put all of the negativity aside; I stopped being a no and started being a yes,” she said. “I kept encouraging myself to get up and run. I kept telling myself that there are people all over the country, all over the world, who are suffering from diseases and they don’t physically have the option to run. Here I am that I’m complaining that it’s too hot out or I want to watch the next episode of ‘Scandal.’
“[Ovarian cancer is] not as politically popular as breast cancer, but it’s a big deal; it’s the second most common reproductive cancer among women and it is the fifth most common lethal disease of women,” Dr. Howard Schlossberg of New York Oncology Hematology said. “Unfortunately there are not a lot of symptoms until the disease is more advanced. We usually find out that people are starting to develop bloating, fluid in the belly or pain from tumors pressing on things.”
“We as women have to be advocates for our own health,” Mosso said. “There really aren’t any preventative screening tools for this disease; the only way to do it is to get an ovarian ultrasound or a trans-vaginal ultrasound, but that’s something where you have to show signs and symptoms before the insurance companies will pay for it.”
Catching it in the initial stage is vital. “In stage one, you’re talking 90 percent cures,” Schlossberg said. “If it’s in stage four, you may not be able to fix it and stage two and three are kind of in-between.”
New methods are being tested to detect the disease at an earlier, more easily treatable stage. “They are working on circulating tumor cell tests where you would look to find cancer cells in the blood that you could just take out of your arm,” Schlossberg said. “It would be great, if it works.”
Mosso trekked through all five boroughs and finally crossed the finish line at Central Park at 3:33 p.m., four hours, 52 minutes and 15 seconds after she started.
“It was about mental toughness, and I saw how strong I can really be,” she said. “Running a marathon is something that I never thought I would do, it’s totally out of my comfort zone. Running a marathon is four hours; battling cancer is a lifetime.”