In many ways, Alexandra Bishop is just like any other 16-year-old Junior in high school. She has been spending time looking at colleges recently and is trying to decide what she wants to do with her life. She rows on the varsity girls’ crew team at the Bolles School where she is also a member of student council. In her free time, she enjoys photography and is also spending an increasing amount of time on her newest hobby: running. After coming in second in her age group at a half-marathon last year, Alexandra was hooked on racing. She knew she wanted to run the Chicago Marathon and she also realized she wanted to make the experience about more than just running. She is now preparing to run the Chicago Marathon with the Project Purple team.
Alexandra has fortunately never had a family member diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, yet the illness has had a great impact on her throughout her life. Her mother, Michele Lewis, is a Gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. She treats patients, conducts clinical research and teaches medical students and residents. Alexandra says, “She became interested in the pancreas in medical school and completed a fellowship in pancreas disease and genetics at Harvard. She has spent the last twenty years working with other Gastroenterologists around the country to find better ways of early detection, diagnosis and surveillance of pancreatic cancer, pancreas cysts and pancreatitis.”
In addition, Alexandra’s mother is on the Board of Directors for the National Pancreas Foundation and is a course director for the annual Fellows Symposium. In this capacity, she tries to encourage young doctors to work in the field of pancreatology.
Lessons from Pancreatic Cancer
Alexandra has learned life lessons through her mother’s experiences treating pancreatic cancer patients. Her mother has shared stories with her throughout the years about her courageous patients who have had unbelievable strength despite seemingly insurmountable odds. By hearing stories about individuals who are facing pancreatic cancer, Alexandra has learned a lot about what is important in life. “To me, pancreatic cancer means being resilient and living with no regrets. My mom has always told me to do the things that you want to do while you are able. So that’s what we did,” she explains. She and her mom have traveled the world over the years, making memories and meeting amazing people everywhere they went.
In addition, Alexandra has accompanied her mom on trips to Washington, DC, to lobby Congress for more federal funding for pancreatic cancer research for the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute. She explains, “This is a personal fight for our family,” Alexandra says, adding, “This was certainly an experience to remember. After hearing so many stories of people fighting pancreas cancer and about their grit and resilience, it makes me think twice about what I fill my time doing and who those choices impact.”
Alexandra has been a runner for a while, but she became more serious about it a couple of years back. She was soon running every day. A passionate environmentalist, being outside is clearly an enjoyable way for Alexandra to get in her exercise. She adds, “I love running. It is a great way to get out stress and helps me sleep at night.”
Alexandra has run a mixture of trail and road races and completed her first half-marathon last year. Doing well in that race encouraged her to keep challenging herself. “When I began thinking of running Chicago, I wanted to approach it in a different way. It’s such a big race and on the bucket-list for so many runners, but it’s just a race. I wanted to do more, but had never run for a charity before. I found Project Purple, did some research and thought, ‘this is an unbelievable opportunity to do something for pancreatic cancer’.”
Because she traveled so much during the summer, Alexandra’s training has been a bit inconsistent. She is hoping that the routine of being back in school will help her in the final weeks leading up to the race. She is also able to put things into perspective, saying, ”To be honest, yes, I am nervous. But, I am looking forward to having fun out on the course and will enjoy running for everyone battling pancreas cancer.”
Sometimes it is easy to wonder what kind of difference one person can make in the world, but Alexandra knows that she can put her healthy body to good use by running for the cause she cares deeply about. Please make a donation to her fundraiser here: