This Fight Is Personal for Lee Ann


This fight is personal for Lee Ann Yanni and thousands of other Team LIVESTRONG athletes. Run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 13th or the ING NYC Marathon on November 3rd to fight cancer.

I chose to run my first Marathon with Team LIVESTRONG for a few reasons. I hear that Chicago is one of the best races for a first time marathoner. It is a ?flat? race and being from Florida, I have not learned to appreciate the hills in Massachusetts yet. Most importantly, I just lost my father to cancer in October – October 13th, which ironically, was the last day that I saw my father alive.

Lee Ann and her late father on her wedding day.

Lee Ann and her late father on her wedding day.

April 15, 2013 at 2:49pm

I was watching a patient of mine that was running the Boston Marathon (I?m a physical therapist). We were standing in front of Marathon Sports store waiting for her to return after finishing the race, when the first explosion occurred. I heard the ?boom?, which sounded like a firework exploded or a cannon went off, when I looked down at my leg. I had felt something warm brush it, and saw the fibula bone sticking out. I also had the sensation of water hose pouring down my leg, of which was the large amount of blood that I was losing. About 10 seconds later, the second explosion occurred, and I tried to put weight onto my left leg and ended up fracturing my great toe as well. I quickly hopped on my right leg inside of marathon sports store and helped to direct my husband in tying tourniquets along my leg to help decrease the bleeding. I was then assisted by a fireman, inside of the store to help place some gauze bandages along the wound because with the immense amount of leg injuries, they had run out of splints. A police officer then picked me up and ran me out of the store because they had thought they found another device and were removing all the people in the store. As my leg was hanging down and he was running me outside, we were met by a golf cart and army medic from Afghanistan. He supported my leg and assisted me into the medical tent. I was helped by a slew of medical staff, triaged and then transported by ambulance to Tufts Medical Center. All in all, had 3 surgeries in 5 days to remove shrapnel and dead tissue/muscle from the blast, with the final surgery being a skin graft to cover the wound. Not to mention on top of that having a perforated ear drum.

X-Ray of Lee Ann's leg showing shrapnel from the bomb.

X-Ray of Lee Ann’s leg showing shrapnel from the bomb.

Now hands down, if it were up to me to have my father alive or lose a leg, I would have my father here today. I know my father was with me that chaotic day because I was told that if I had been turned just a little more than I was that the shrapnel would have severed my leg. Also, I had suffered nerve damage to my left lower leg/foot and the area that was severed was only sensation and not motor. Being the fibula was the only bone that was fractured, I knew my recovery was better than most. Doctors have told me that for the poor situation that I was involved in, the best case scenario occurred.

A funny story to go along with my surgeries, when I was taken into the ER, they were cutting my clothes and quickly getting me ready for surgery. I told the nurses to please take care of this necklace that I had on. It is a stingray charm that my father had given me, after going on a cruise to the islands with his wife. After my dad got sick, I began wearing it everyday. They said no problem and from there I woke up from my first surgery and was given my jewelry by my husband. I had the necklace but no charm. At that point I didn?t remember if it was on me or if for some reason it came off in the blast but everyone in the hospital began looking for it. No luck after surgery #2, still no charm. When I went in for surgery #3, I was transitioning over to the OR table and looked down and there was my charm, stuck to my hip/butt. It was at that moment that I knew the third surgery was going to go well and smoothly—it did! I say now that my dad was a ?pain in my butt? for 4 days and saw me through all the hard times.

Recovering in the hospital after surgery.

Recovering in the hospital after surgery.

I was in a cast for about 3-4 weeks before I was able to put any weight onto my leg. I have been slowly progressed from 25% of my weight to weight bearing as tolerated onto the L leg. I was actually able to walk a short distance without my crutches, which was very exciting! But not quick enough because I want/need to start training! I am working out for about an hr, 4-5 days a week (trying to work up to 6), doing strengthening exercises for my legs and arms, progressing cardio on the bike as I?m able. My husband has been AMAZING and so supportive. He deserves more than I could give him with all that he has done for me before and even more so now.

The meaning of Strength
LIVESTRONG means strength, support, and friendship. I have met a few people since joining Team LIVESTRONG that have been so amazing, especially since my recent injury. I know this wonderful organization has helped my husband?s cousin that lost his fight to cancer in 2007 and I wish my father would have been able to receive some of the LIVESTRONG support, however, melanoma took his live in a quick 6-week period. We all wore our bracelets in support, even the stuffed lobster ?Larry? that watched over my dad when I couldn?t be with him. I know that this marathon won’t be what I envisioned as my first, a lot slower and a lot more walking, but it?s the meaning behind it that I have said since April 15 that I would be there and complete it no matter what.

Advice to those overcoming tragedy
Take it day by day. Cherish those moments that you have and focus on the positive. It?s hard for me to listen to my own words, but in talking to other friends that have lost parents and loved ones due to cancer, speaking of the good times brings a smile to my face.

Every marathon starts with one step.

Every marathon starts with one step.


  1. Jan W says:

    I’m rooting for you Lee Ann. Losing anyone you love in such an untimely way is an incomparable pain, but its important to remember what joys remain in your life. I’m sure your father lived a happy life, and wanted nothing more than for one of his children to have a cheerful life as well. Overcoming such an unspeakable injustice, as you are doing, is exactly what would put a smile on your dads face.

  2. Amber Dodds says:

    Chicago welcomes you Lee Ann! Good Luck with your first marathon and speedy recovery

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