A Runner for Cancer Decides to Become Oncologist After Losing Father

A Runner for Cancer Decides to Become Oncologist After Losing Father

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Runner Marathon Jenna NortonJenna Norton is not your typical medical school applicant. In fact, until two years ago, she had never considered a career in medicine. It took Jenna seven years to graduate with a degree in Theatre, while working as a waitress and acting on the side. The death of her father, Henry, who passed away after a brief battle with cancer, also delayed her graduation. But his death later propelled Jenna’s future in a direction never imagined — a tribute to the man who owned a hardware store and supported his daughter’s passion for Shakespeare.

As her family struggled with the loss, Norton reached a low emotional point. While battling depression and trying to finish school, Jenna decided that the only answer was to change her life.

She started running as a way to reclaim her athletic youth and beat her family’s history of cancer.

“At the time, I could barely run one mile,” she said.

She joined several running clubs in Houston and trained for her first official race, a 5K at the Houston Marathon, for which she raised more than $500 for the American Cancer Society.

Running sparked Norton’s curiosity in medicine, a minor interest she’d held since high school. In order to further explore her re-kindled interest, she started to volunteer in cancer wards at Texas Children’s Hospital and the MD Anderson Cancer Clinic.

It wasn’t long before she ran her first full marathon in 2011 on “Team Henry”, dedicating the run in honor of her father.

Med students Jenna Norton HarvardBy that time, it was obvious to Jenna that her passion had faded for theatre. She applied and was accepted into the Harvard Health Careers Program for post-baccalaureate students.

Last fall, Norton packed everything she owned into 2 suitcases and moved from the heat of Texas to the frigid campus in Boston. Now, as a pre-med student (photo, left), she landed a job at Massachusetts General Hospital working as an assistant in a research facility. She continues running, and is currently training for the iconic Boston Marathon to benefit a pediatric cancer patient.

“Through my running I hope to give others hope. Running has real and applicable power to do good. I don’t think my Harvard road would have been possible if I hadn’t taken that first run.”

You can view Norton’s running page at: www.crowdrise.com/runjennarun

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