Gina Bellar has run six half-marathons in the past for fun and to maintain her fitness. This year, the married mother of three will run the Lincoln half-marathon with the Project Purple team. Gina will be honoring her 41-year-old sister-in-law, Billie Murphy, who is currently battling Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer. Though Gina has recently cut back on her running due to a knee injury, she says, “If Billie can do chemo, then I can make it 13 miles!”
Billie Murphy is married to Gina’s younger brother, James “J.P.” Murphy. The couple has a six-year-old daughter, named Grace. Billie had always enjoyed good health. However, in 2013, Billie had begun experiencing some symptoms that she had thought were perhaps caused by a recurrence of kidney stones. An initial CT scan showed no abnormalities. Her symptoms persisted, though, and a repeat scan performed one year later revealed a growth in her pancreas. Billie was quickly referred to an oncologist. Ultimately, it was determined that her cancer had already spread to her liver. Billie received the shocking news that she had Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer.
Initially, Billie had been told that she could only expect to survive for 6 to 8 months. For the past year, Billie has been traveling to MD Anderson to meet with a Pancreatic Cancer oncologist. Her medical team at MD Anderson felt that, with treatment, they could buy Billie more time to spend with her family and watch Grace grow up. At her most recent appointment, Billie was told that her tumor was stable and that she could take a two month break from chemotherapy. Unfortunately, she has been experiencing significant neuropathy from her chemo. When she returns to treatment, her chemotherapy protocol will be changed. For now, Billie is feeling better and is enjoying the respite from her treatments.
Gina explains that Billie’s diagnosis has been difficult on the entire family. It has been painful for them to see this young, happy couple affected by this aggressive cancer. Despite the difficulty, Gina says that Billie’s illness has brought the entire family all closer together. They have concentrated on what is most important in life and have made a concerted effort to spend more time together.
Gina says, “Billie is very out-going. She is smart and has a lot of friends. She is the kind of person who would do anything for anybody. The outpouring of support she has gotten shows how many lives she has touched. Billie’s bravery and determination have inspired Gina. She says, “When Billie got her diagnosis, she did not cower in a corner. She took it head on. She does not sit around and feel sorry for herself. She is making plans for the future.” Billie wants to be able to enjoy watching her daughter Grace grow into adulthood. Gina says that knowing how hard Billie is fighting to be around for her daughter has changed the way that Gina sees things. “Things that I used to think were a big deal in life I now realize are small compared to thinking that you may not get to see your child grow up or graduate.”
Gina has been so inspired by her sister-in-law’s battle that she decided she would run in her honor at the Lincoln half-marathon this year. Gina was involved in different athletic pursuits as a child. She ran track and played basketball in high school, and went on to play volleyball while she was in college. Now Gina teaches yoga and owns a fitness studio in her hometown in Nebraska. She does not run as much as she used to due to some knee issues she developed as a result of her years as a volleyball player. However, when Gina saw that the Lincoln Marathon was partnering with Project Purple, she knew that she wanted to run for Billie.
Gina explains that training for the Lincoln half-marathon feels differently that it has when she has trained for previous races. This time around, she has a definitive goal when she goes out for her training runs. Gina explains that in the past when she knew she had to get a training run in, she would sometimes dread it because it felt like an obligation. But this time she does not feel that apprehension. She knows that she is running for a great cause and this has made the training process easier. Gina hopes that by raising money for Project Purple, she can help to fund much-needed clinical trials and help other families who have been impacted by Pancreatic Cancer.
Please support Gina’s fund raising efforts by donating to her Crowdrise fund: