Families Running aHEAD of Cancer
The McGowan and Greto families have been dealt a card that no one wants in their hands: a cancer diagnosis. The two Delaware County families will be participating in the HEADstrong Foundation’s Running aHEAD of Cancer 5k in Swarthmore on Sunday, September 22. Each has its own personal ties to the foundation and reason for making a team.
“She always said she never wanted anyone to do a 5k run for her,” said Mark McGowan, whose wife Maureen died in 2018 after a 2½ year battle with colon cancer. “That’s how she was, she didn’t want anyone to make a fuss over her.”
Never say never, they say, and that couldn’t be truer than for Mark and his two children, Kayleigh and Michael. “Her friends always wanted to do something for her. This came up and were like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’” Mark recalled, and the Springfield family created Team Reen to honor Maureen and to raise funds for HEADstrong.
The Greto family of Woodlyn had their life turned upside down in 2017 when their son Justis was terminally diagnosed with Grade IV GBM (Glioblastoma Multiforme), the most aggressive and life-threatening form of brain cancer. The family made the best of the time that they had with him, and 15 year old Justis fought until his death just 3½ months after his diagnosis.
The Gretos’ connection with HEADstrong started when the foundation sent Justis a comfort kit while he was in the hospital. “My wife Christen and I like what HEADstrong does,” said Mike Greto. “It actually helps real families, relieving burdens for people in treatment. We understand how devastating cancer can be emotionally and financially,” said Mike.
The two families have more in common than just losing a loved one to cancer. Both Mark and Mike play guitar and sing, and each turned to songwriting as an outlet for their grief and a source of healing. Mark McGowan wrote a six-song CD for Maureen during her illness, while Mike Greto wrote a song called “You Became A Wave” in honor of his late son.
It’s not too late to join in the event, as a runner, walker, or supporter of the HEADstrong Foundation and families like the Gretos and McGowans. Get involved at headstrong.org/run.