While tens of thousands of runners prepped and waited for the NYC Marathon on Sunday, November 7, one runner, 28-year-old Jonah Adelsberg, looked forward to a special milestone just three days later.
November 10 marked 20 years since Jonah was diagnosed with non-Hodgins lymphoma at age 8, and when he began mentally training for a marathon.
Now managing a music studio in Brooklyn, NY, Jonah dedicated his marathon run to raise funds for Chai Lifeline, the international health network that provides a network of support services for children and families facing serious illness and other challenges. Over the years he and his father ran numerous half-marathons with Team Lifeline, Chai Lifeline’s endurance training program, raising over $100,000 for the organization that he credits with helping him get through his personal health crisis. This was Jonah’s first full marathon, and where better to run it than at the famed NYC Marathon, a bucket list item for Jonah and millions of others.
“I was one of the lucky ones to be able to get to this point,” Adelsberg says. “If I’m able-bodied enough to raise money by doing something I love that is an honor for me to do this.”
Ironically, the upbeat Adelsberg says that he views it as almost a blessing that he got his diagnosis so early in life. “As we get older, I know there are lots of people who hear my story and say that it’s crazy that you had to experience that at such a young age. My battle came with lots of physical and emotional trauma and my childhood was defined by constant therapies and checkups. My older sister struggled too – it’s not easy being the sibling of a sick child and feeling put on the back burner, but having a real support system for me and for my family really helped get us through it.”
Jonah says a big part of that system was Chai Lifeline which “supported me and my family in every way possible.” He says that at that time, pediatric cancer wasn’t something really talked about publicly. Chai Lifeline helped his parents find the best doctors and helped rally the community around his family.
But the highlight of his relationship with the organization was his time spent at Camp Simcha, Chai Lifeline’s summer program for children with cancer and other serious illnesses. The experience was so impactful that he, and his sister, later returned to Camp Simcha as counselors. “In camp you are literally in the happiest place on earth, and you almost forget the seriousness of what’s going around you or, in my case, the grapefruit-sized tumor wrapped around my intestine.”
Jonah’s reality forced him to confront mortality at a very early age and recognize how lucky he was with his treatment as he would receive emails hearing of the deaths of friends he had been in camp with over the years.
Adelsberg says that he thought of those kids and his journey as he ran the famed course through the five boroughs of New York City. “My experience reminds me that it could always be worse and that’s important to remember, not just for those of us who’ve fought cancer but for everyone. When I run, it’s not because I love running even though I know how important exercise is. It’s because I know that I’m doing this because in life we are truly warriors and fight whatever struggles are being thrown our way. That’s why I was there and that’s what pushed me forward towards that finish line.”
To contribute to Jonah’s campaign with Team Lifeline: https://www.teamlifeline.org/NYC21/Member/MyPage/4857481/Jonah-Adelsberg