Caregiving Through Running: Heather Magee and Team LUNGevity

Meredith Mursky, Development Coordinator
Quote from Heather about how running relieves stress and helps her take care of her mom

Read time: 5 minutes 

At 77 years old, a persistent cough prompted Lola Boyle to visit her doctor on multiple occasions, but her smoking history and diagnoses of COPD and emphysema led the doctor to dismiss it. “You have a cough because you’re a smoker,” he said. This wasn’t enough for Lola’s daughter, Heather. She took her mother to see another doctor, and after just listening to Lola struggle with speaking, the doctor immediately ordered chest x-rays to learn more. 

The results led to a diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer on September 11, 2023. 

Working as a Team 

Lola boyle smiling
Lola Boyle

After her diagnosis, Lola’s family knew it would be a team effort to help care for their mom, especially after having experienced this previously with the loss of their father to colon cancer. As a result, Lola’s three children, Lola (Bunny), Jimmy, and Heather have each taken on a different role in their mom’s care.  

Bunny lives with Lola and helps take care of her day-to-day. She loves to cook and is in charge of all meals, ensuring Lola eats well. Jimmy calls his mom every day to keep her spirits up and will stop by the house to help with chores or other things Lola needs. He and his wife, Maria, enjoy taking Lola shopping when she is up for it. Heather takes the lead on all doctor appointments. She oversees the scheduling, takes Lola to appointments and treatments, and keeps notes on Lola’s care and progress to share with her siblings. 

The entire family, including Lola, agree that full transparency is important. They share everything with one another and make decisions together. Lola’s cancer has metastasized to her brain, and with her permission, Heather will take over as the medical power of attorney should growth continue and side effects such as confusion make it too difficult for Lola to make decisions in her care.  

Their team approach provides everyone with a strong support system and relieves some of the stress as no one has to do it all. 

Finding LUNGevity  

Running has always been a hobby for Heather and provides her with an outlet for stress, so as a caregiver, it’s a hobby she continues to prioritize.  

Heather at the Chicago Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle with Team LUNGevity

“It’s important to be levelheaded and have the headspace to handle all the doctors. Running helps keep my mind clear,” said Heather.  

Heather has been a runner since 2008 and is excited to tackle her first full marathon later this year with Team LUNGevity, a group of fellow athletes racing to stop lung cancer.  

“I’ve always wanted to do the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. My friend has participated with a charity for many years and invited me to join her, but I wanted to take a look at the charity program and find a cause I felt connected to. I initially thought I would choose an animal rescue of some type, but then I saw LUNGevity.”  

Not only is running therapeutic, but fundraising for lung cancer empowers her. Doing this for her mom keeps her accountable to her training and adds a deeper meaning to each run.  

“Taking care of myself helps me take care of my mom. Running is a great stress reliever, especially during the times when we’re at appointments or treatments 3 or 4 days of the week.” 

The 2024 Bank of America Chicago Marathon takes place on October 13, 2024. This will be exactly one year since Lola began her cancer treatments, making the race an extra special day to honor her. 

Running for a Cause 

In preparation for her marathon in the fall, Heather runs with friends and participates in running clubs in her hometown. She has many other races on the calendar, too, a few of which have been dedicated to Team LUNGevity in honor of Lola. 

Backside of a Team LUNGevity shirt, saying "race to stop lung cancer"

Heather ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Washington DC Half Marathon and the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago, IL, in March. In June, Heather will participate in the Sunburst Half Marathon in South Bend, IN, and Bank of America 13.1 in Chicago. For these events plus the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October, Heather has already raised over $1,500. 

In addition to fundraising, Heather wears her Team LUNGevity gear at each of these races to spread awareness for lung cancer and promote the team.  

“There is a level of confidence I get when I see people looking at my shirt and reading the back to see why and who I am running for. It boosts my confidence because I’m not alone. I’ve got my friends I run with, but I’ve also got a whole team behind me. I’m really proud of these races for LUNGevity because it’s not just for me. I’m representing the team, not just myself.” 

When asked what her hopes are for her fundraising, Heather talked most about early detection efforts.  

“Statistics show that lung cancer is commonly diagnosed in later stages, like my mom, and from there, it’s working backward to try to heal. I’m hoping that the money I raise will lead to early detection efforts, plus more advanced treatment options, and help the Foundation to continue providing support for patients and caregivers.” 

One Step at a Time 

Just like taking it one mile at a time during a run, Heather and her family are tackling Lola’s lung cancer one step at a time. 

Although Lola’s cancer has metastasized to her brain, it’s the only active cancer. At the time of diagnosis, she had tumors in both lungs and her lymph nodes. Now, there is no new evidence of disease in the body and the cancer in her lungs is neither growing nor active. No prognosis has been given, so they are staying positive.  

“The doctor is calling her current treatment ‘maintenance mode’ because it’s working,” Heather said.  

As an active person, Lola has had to slow down and take a back seat, leaning on her children. Immunotherapy has made her bones thin and recently caused a fractured sternum. But that hasn’t stopped her from staying positive.  

“Mom’s attitude about it all is just amazing. She is such a great role model. She’s actually helping me to be more positive!” 

Heather hopes that her mom continues to make progress and feels well enough in October to cheer her on in person at her marathon finish line. 

“My mom has always been very strong. She’s had such a great attitude through this whole process. Anyone going through this would struggle, but positive mental attitude means so much. We’ll keep tackling one thing at a time.” 

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