Readers Say

Gianna Bender is running to honor a friend and to help others celebrate life

"I run so more living can be done."

Gianna Bender became an oncology nurse after watching her friend, Henry, battle cancer. She's running to support the care the Dana Farber Cancer Institute provides.

In our “Why I’m Running” series, Boston Marathon runners share what’s inspiring them to make the 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston. If you’re running the marathon, you can share your story here.

Name: Gianna Bender
Age: 24
From: Boston

My friend Henry had a passion for living. Unlike too many, he knew not to take a day for granted. This self-described “fervor for life” transcended to those around him — his positivity and sarcasm were contagious. Henry began his battle against osteosarcoma when we were juniors in high school. Due to his experience and encouragement, I strove to become a pediatric oncology nurse.


I now work at Boston Children’s Hospital on the inpatient oncology floor, where Henry was treated. In partnership with Dana Farber and the Jimmy Fund, I work to care, educate, advocate, and guide children and families through diagnosis and treatment with the hope that I will see these children walk out the door cancer-free. My job is as equally humbling and powerful as it is horrible and devastating. It is the greatest privilege to walk with the most courageous children who, like Henry, continue to exemplify rising above.

I will lace up my sneakers to run the Boston Marathon for Dana Farber, in honor of Henry and my patients. While I have always been a runner, this run is different. This run is me choosing hope — that through my small efforts, a larger difference may be made. It is me pushing myself in a way that gives back to others. I run so more living can be done.

Henry passed in 2017 at 20 years old. He did so after completing his bucket list — activities he wanted to do with the limited time he had. For these reasons, I don’t feel my friend “lost” his battle. He did not let the cards he was dealt define him. In so many ways, he won life in the far too short time he had. I run Boston for him, so he and the way he lived his life are remembered, and that his inspiration may help others celebrate life too.


Editor’s note: This entry may have been lightly edited for clarity or grammar.


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on