St. Charles resident Lynda Miller lost her son Liam in 2008 to a brain tumor. While he was undergoing three months of intensive treatment in the hospital, Miller and her family stayed at a local Ronald McDonald House in order to be near him in the hospital. Two years ago, Miller began running in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
This year, these events all came together for Miller, as she ran this year’s marathon in honor of her son, and became a spokesperson for Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Liam was 15 months old when the doctors found his brain tumor. After surgery, he underwent chemotherapy and a six-week course of radiation. He was 3 ½ years old when he died.
The family’s stay at Ronald McDonald House had allowed them to be close to Liam without having to travel back and forth to the hospital. Ronald McDonald House provides families with children who are ill and undergoing long-term treatment at a health care facility a place to stay for the duration of the treatment. Meals are provided by volunteers, many of whom are previous recipients of these services.
Miller said that it was wonderful to come back to the house to a home-cooked meal. Sitting down to eat with other families who were going through the same thing was comforting, even if they didn’t talk about their experiences.
And after a particularly long day at the hospital, arriving back at the house late at night, she said just knowing that there were leftovers waiting for them in the refrigerator was such a relief.
Miller said she wanted to keep the family’s life as normal as possible during her son’s treatment. She said the environment at the Ronald McDonald House made that easier to do for her and her 4-year-old daughter Samantha.
After Liam passed away, Lynda found inspiration in 2012, when, with the encouragement of a co-worker, she agreed to participate in a 5K race to benefit the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
Miller began running with the Fox River Trail Runners club three years ago. She participated in the club’s endurance training, and has increased her speed every year. She began working with a coach, Karen Willuweit, the president of the club.
“I met her two years ago,” Willuweit said. “At the time, she was running with the slower groups.”
She said that Miller’s time improved by an hour between her first and second year running the marathon. This year she was even nine minutes faster than last year.
“She’s been with me every step of the way,” Miller said.
This year’s marathon served a dual purpose for Miller. In addition to honoring her son, she was helping to raise money for Ronald McDonald House, as well as speaking at their charity dinner.
Miller said that running has been very therapeutic for her. She said she has formed some “incredible friendships” with the other members of the team. Six of them came to the charity dinner to hear her speak.
“She’s so inspirational,” Willuweit said. “She’s always willing to come out and help other runners. She’s so kind.”
Miller said she also runs to show her daughter Samantha how far they have come. She said it’s important to her that Samantha has a positive female role model who is strong.
“We’re doing really well,” she said. “I have always been open with Sam. She’s incredibly strong.”
Will Miller run a Marathon again?
“I already put my name in... for 2017,” she said.