Among the thousands of runners in the New York Marathon, there are countless stories of courage and motivation that bring them to the starting line. But for 24-year-old Yitzi Teichman, the path to this moment has been nothing short of miraculous and motivated his run with the Chai Lifeline team, the organization that he says helped him get through his personal ordeal.
At age 17, Yitzi was diagnosed with a brain tumor that set him on the difficult path of treatment, rehabilitation, and recovery. Immediately after his diagnosis, he was approached by a volunteer from Chai Lifeline, an international network of support services for children with life-threatening and lifelong illnesses, including their signature Camp Simcha serving this community. After 14-hour brain surgery at Johns Hopkins to address the tumor, he went to the camp which he described as an incredible experience that allowed him to learn a great deal from other kids who were just like him.
After leaving Camp Simcha, he traveled to Boston where the next three months were spent in treatment and therapy and he says that within a year he was pretty much “back to my pre-cancer self.”
Always an athlete, Yitzi viewed running as the way to prove mentally and physically that he was well on the road to a full recovery. In January of that year, Yitzi ran in the half marathon in the Miami Marathon with Team Lifeline, an endurance training program that raises funds and awareness for Chai Lifeline.
As it is for many athletes, the full New York marathon is often the goalpost, and Yitzi registered to run his first full marathon in 2020, which was then canceled due to Covid-19.
Today, living in Los Angeles and an administrator at a psychiatric facility with 185 patients, Yitzi credits Chai Lifeline with giving him and many others like him the tools and support to get through illness. “When you are diagnosed with a serious disease, you kind of become an outcast or some sort of foreign creature. People treat you differently and it’s as if they’re always scared to say the wrong thing. I know that doesn’t come from a bad place but it leaves you feeling that much more helpless and the truth is then you feel even sicker. With my Chai Lifeline friends and at Camp Simcha, I was being treated normally again.”
To demonstrate that point and why the Camp Simcha experience was so important for him, Yitzi recalls standing in line at the camp’s canteen and one kid cut in front sheepishly saying ‘but I have cancer.’ The whole line of kids broke out laughing saying, ‘We all have cancer. Get to the back of the line.’ “It’s that kind of normalcy that we all needed which makes the experience so important.”
Yitzi says that much of his motivation to take part in his first full marathon comes from recognizing how blessed he has been with his recovery. “My experience with cancer has exposed me to so many friends who have passed away or lost their ability to walk and others who the diseases messed up their lives physically and mentally. I feel so lucky to be where I am and running for this organization is a great way to express my gratitude.” To learn more about Team Lifeline, visit www.teamlifeline.org.