Runner Janine Dolan

Janine Dolan was a teenager when her father, Hank Dolan, passed away from Pancreatic Cancer. The trauma of her father’s illness and passing was, at times, too much for Janine to bear. She struggled for many years to process the pain of losing her dad so early in life. Though it took time, Janine eventually made peace with the past and moved forward in life. Running played a big role in her healing process and now Janine will be running her first marathon to honor the father she lost many years ago.

Janine with her father, Hank Dolan
Janine with her father, Hank Dolan

Janine Dolan had just completed the eighth grade when her father, Hank, was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic Cancer.  She remembers the summer before she began her freshman year in high school as being extremely difficult. Hank had been experiencing back pain for quite some time. Eventually, the doctors discovered a tumor growing in his spine which was causing Hank’s discomfort. Further tests revealed that the spinal tumor was actually Pancreatic Cancer which had already metastasized. The cancer was so widespread throughout Hank’s body that there was very little medical doctors could offer him for treatment. Hank was in and out of the hospital many times over the months he fought his disease.  Janine remembers watching her strong, physically active father wither away to a mere 90 lbs. He fought for three months, but the cancer was so far advanced there was little they could do. Hank was only 40 years old when he passed away on August 5th, 1985. Janine was 15 years old.

Janine remembers the challenges she and her family faced the year that they lost her father. Janine felt alienated from her peers, who did not know how to comfort her when she lost her father. Her friends had not experienced the death of a parent, and they simply did not know how to reach out to Janine.

Janine thinks back on the months of her father’s illness and says, “I was going through the motions for months, but when they wheeled his body out of the church, I just collapsed. I realized that his death was real. The previous months felt like an out-of-body experience.” Janine had felt numb for so long, but seeing her father’s body in the church brought her emotions to the surface. The pain she experienced was deep and profound. Janine’s world had shattered in an instant and she struggled to recover from her loss.

When Hank died, Janine’s mother, Doreen, was left to take care of her three daughters alone. Hank had been a self-employed landscaper, and Doreen had just begun working as a respiratory therapist. Janine describes her mother as incredibly strong and selfless through this time. She carried so much weight upon her shoulders and yet focused exclusively on her three daughters. Janine says, “I was very troubled at that point in time. People did not know if I was going to make it.”  Slowly, through the years Janine put her shattered life back together.

Janine with her mother and sisters
Janine with her mother and sisters

When Janine turned 40, she realized that she was the same age her father was when he was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. She decided that she needed to work to improve her health. Janine says, “Life is a gift and I knew that I needed to be healthy.” She signed up for a sprint triathlon to provide motivation to get into shape. From her research on training she learned to focus on her weakest sport, which happened to be running. Janine did just that and finished her first race. Since then, she has decided to increase her goal with each birthday. She completed a half-marathon when she turned 41.


Janine has fallen in love with running. She says, “It keeps me sane. I am not fast and it is hard work for me, but I love it. Running has brought me a lot of joy and happiness. It has brought me new relationships and a community of friends. It is something I never thought that I could do before, but now I know I can.”

Janine at 44 has decided that the next logical step is to run a marathon. She chose to run the Chicago Marathon because the course has a flat profile, which appeals to her as a first time marathoner. She wanted to run for a charity, but she was unsure of which one to choose. Janine reached out to friend Susan Hurley of CharityTeams and asked for guidance.  Susan had not known that Janine had lost her father to Pancreatic Cancer, but she suggested that Janine reach out to Dino Verrelli, founder of Project Purple. As soon as she learned that Project Purple was a charity focusing on pancreatic cancer she knew she wanted to run the Chicago Marathon with the Project Purple team. She says that she knows committing to run for her dad will help her to finish the race. Janine love being part of the Project Purple team. She says, “I feel like I have found my charity for life. It is such a positive group to be involved with.”

Janine running in her Project Purple gear.
Janine running in her Project Purple gear.

Janine has worked hard over the years to come to terms with the pain of losing her beloved father at such a young age. Running has played an integral part in helping her to maintain her physical and emotional well-being. Janine looks forward to running her first marathon with Project Purple as a means to honor her father. Please support Janine’s fund raising campaign by donating at her CrowdRise page:

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