Minneapolis man beats odds to compete in Grandma’s Marathon for 42nd time


Her memories are compiled into a thick album made by her mother to celebrate her accomplishments. Photos show Kirkham crossing the finish line, enjoying the annual pasta dinner and celebrating after the race with his family over the years.

“It’s just fun,” Kirkham said. “At my age, there aren’t many people who can run a marathon whose knees, ankles and hips are working. I was lucky, I was really lucky. I just became a lucky person.

His 41 grandmother’s marathons were an incredible feat, which propelled him through difficult years.

In 2006, he was running around Bde Maka Ska when he had to stop to catch his breath. He said he had purple spots on his body.

“I assumed I had a viral infection, but not being able to catch my breath was totally different from me, so I went in and had my blood drawn,” Kirkham said. “It turned out that I had a disease called aplastic anemia, which meant that all your cell lines, the ones that carry oxygen, the ones that clot your blood and fight infections, all the cell lines were gone.

His doctors told him he also had myelodysplastic syndrome.

Kirkham, who is a radiologist, explained at the time that he was in a pre-leukemic state.

“They really expected me to become acute myeloid leukemia“Kirkham said.” Maybe they thought fast enough and that was in 2006. “

He underwent years of treatment, which included infusions.

“It destroys all of your cells, it’s like restarting a computer,” Kirkham said. “Sometimes he reboots with good cells and that’s what happened to me, I was very lucky.”

Every year he still trained for the marathon and showed up for the race in Duluth.

In March 2020, she was finally diagnosed with leukemia. Kirkham started outpatient chemotherapy while they searched for a bone marrow donor.

“First they had to put me in remission,” he explained. “After they put me into remission you are hospitalized and for the first seven days they give you chemotherapy and total body radiation to kill your cells. And then they put in the donor’s bone marrow and then you hope it takes. “

He received the transplant on July 13, 2020. The donation came from a 23-year-old that Kirkham does not know. After one year, he will have the chance to meet the donor.

“I probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now and I definitely wouldn’t be running a marathon if a donor hadn’t come forward somewhere in the United States,” he said.

While in the hospital, Kirkham flipped through the pages of his album. Every memory of a marathon gave him strength.

“I think the pain of marathons and the end of marathons has prepared me to be very successful in this process,” he said. “When you’re in there and you’ve got five IVs going and you push those IVs back and forth in a room, you’re in pain but I had already done that so I could just turn a page, move on to the next year and remind me that you know, you are in pain and you don’t want to continue but you leave because you know what? There is a finish. This is where I am, at the moment I am in perfect health.

He slowly built his stamina to prepare for this year’s marathon. Each run allowed him to move forward, as he has done for so many years.

“It gives you something that you aim for. I always thought I was going to survive and that eventually everything would be fine for me to make it to the next marathon, ”Kirkham said. “It’s an amazing story, I was so lucky and lucky again.”

Kirkham hopes he can inspire those currently battling cancer. It also encourages others to sign up for Be the match, which connects people with bone marrow donors.

“If anyone wants to get on the Be the correspondence list and save someone’s life, you will probably never get called, but if you get called, you might send someone to the finish of a marathon, ”Kirkham said.

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