Profiles in Resilience


Ali & Nora's Story

By Ali Lamson, One Summit, Manager of Development & Communications

By Ali Lamson, One Summit, Manager of Development & Communications

This year, April 15th marked Marathon Monday in Boston. It is a day of patriotism, celebration, running, and cheering. However, for me, April 15th has not typically been a day of joy. It was the day that I lost my closest childhood friend and neighbor to cancer.

Nora Elizabeth Searle was born on February 1, 1998. She is the daughter of Jennifer and Bob Searle and the sister of Owen Searle. Nora and I met when we were 5 years old and formed an inseparable friendship. We lived down the street from each other and spent most of our time riding bikes, playing soccer, watching movies, and doing arts and crafts. Nora was the life of the party – always fun, active, silly, and fashionable. At a young age, we both had a strong sense of the meaning of friendship. For example, at Nora's first soccer game in kindergarten, she refused to take the field unless all the girls on the team came on the field holding hands.

Unfortunately, things in life do not always turn out how you hope. When we were ten years old, Nora was diagnosed with Synovial Sarcoma, a rare type of cancer. She took the diagnosis in stride and did not let it affect her willingness to enjoy life. As we went through middle school, her health declined, and chemo and hospital visits became the new normal. Watching my closest friend fight cancer every day was heartbreaking. I spent the years after her diagnosis visiting her at Boston Children's Hospital and wearing a headscarf with her at school in solidarity, trying to do the best I could to make her feel loved and supported. I saw firsthand how the doctors and nurses fought for Nora's life every day and how the hospital staff brought understanding and hope during devastating moments. It was not uncommon for me to arrive at the hospital and find an impromptu spa day in Nora's room with her favorite nurses all around her. Creativity was an escape for Nora, and we spent hours together chatting while making duct tape wallets and painting.

In eighth grade, when she was able to attend school, she spent much of her time at the nurse's office. Her experience inspired her to create a mural on the blank wall of the office – she wanted to bring cheeriness to the gloomy space. With the help of our art teacher and close friends, we painted brightly colored hummingbirds, yellow roses, and bleeding hearts on the mural. Even though she was battling for her life everyday, she was eager to make the world a better place and fill it with sparkle.

The spring after Nora turned 14 year sold and the day before the 2012 Boston Marathon, she lost her battle with cancer. The Boston Marathon instantly took on a whole new meaning for me because it symbolized the loss of my closest friend. During my senior year of college, I began to think about what the day meant to me and how I wanted to reclaim the narrative. Nora would've wanted me to celebrate her life with the thousands of runners who cross the finish line every Marathon Monday. I started running more and more for fun until I found myself running the 2020 Boston Marathon.

The COVID-19 pandemic postponed the race, eventually making it go virtual in the fall of 2020. Although in the moment, this was heartbreaking – all of the hours of training and fundraising weren't going to be celebrated as a typical Boston Marathon – it was a blessing in disguise. I ran the Boston Marathon course by myself, with my family and friends cheering me on at multiple points. They were able to travel along the course easily to see me again and again as I ran through the different towns, something that would be impossible on a typical Marathon Monday. Nora's mom, Jennifer, ran 13 miles with me until the top of Heartbreak Hill. There were many tears and smiles along the way.

After the 2020 marathon, I decided to stick to the sport and continue to run marathons, holding Nora's memory with me every step of the way. Although I didn't partake in this year's Boston Marathon, I worked with a group of five fierce, determined, dedicated, and passionate runners that helped fundraise and spread awareness for One Summit and our mission of building resilience in pediatric cancer patients and their families. Watching Maddy, Jordan, Gary, O'Keefe, and Sammy pass the One Summit cheering section at mile 18 was inspiring and tear-jerking. After spending months training and fundraising for Marathon Monday, their hard work was paying off and culminated in a day of celebration and patriotism.

They ran the marathon so that our little warriors can climb.

I do what I do now at One Summit because of Nora's impact on me and everyone she met. No child should have to go through what Nora went through. But if they do, it is important that they have a community surrounding them that helps them build resilience and strength while allowing them to be a kid. Nora continues to be with me every day and has inspired me to pursue a career helping others who are going through a similar experience. If I am able to make a small difference in someone's life, that is all I can ask for.