Helene Neville was wrapped up in the cocoon of the zone.

Neville didn't have the time to consider the ramifications of the medical tests; not when she had so many people counting on her to take the next journey.

And what a journey it was.

The Ahwatukee Foothills resident recently completed the feat of running across the country - essentially a marathon (26 miles) a day for 93 days - that went from Ocean Beach, Calif., on May 1 to Jacksonville, Fla., on Aug. 1.

She took on the transcontinental run in order to spread the word about the fact that there is life after a cancer diagnosis and also to bring attention to her book, Nurses in Shape, which implores the importance of nurses being the first in line in America's battle against obesity.

"I wanted to inspire people - even if it is just one person - to go after any dream, idea or goal," she said. "The thought that something isn't reachable should never reach your mind. Go out and do it. The end will come with whatever result, but the hardest part is getting started."

This approach is what has allowed Neville, a nurse and single mother of two, to run in more than 25 marathons, climb the largest mountain in the lower 48 states, Mount Whitney in California, compete in a body building contest and tackle her latest task that she tabbed "One on the Run."

It all came after Neville, 50, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma 19 years ago and made it through three brain surgeries with the last one coming in 1998.

Neville believes it will also help her get through her latest medical setback. During her run across the country one of her medical checkups found that her lymph nodes were enlarged.

It hasn't been officially diagnosed as thyroid cancer, but there is often a link between the two. Neville will go under testing to find out what is going on, but it really hasn't set in just yet because she didn't allow the news to make a difference in her daily approach during the run.

"I had to continue on," she said. "What else could I do? Everyone was counting on me and I needed to finish what I started. It's likely that (the thyroid cancer) isn't anything fast moving. My health is good. It's hard to describe what I was feeling when it was discovered.

"I was in that zone and just moving on. I was never tired or achy. (The run) was something bigger than just me and my well-being. Nothing was going to stop me."

So there Neville was, going to hospitals or doing interviews in the evening after her daily runs, trying to motivate people who are dealing with cancer when she was possibly facing it once again herself.

"It was a numb feeling," said Neville, who found out on May 17. "I dealt with it before, and I've had to teach patients how to deal with a negative diagnosis. You have to decompartmentalize it and live your life.

"My mind never got ahead of itself and worried about it. I just thought about what I needed to do to get the record."

And she got it.

When Neville, who was accompanied by a support bus on her daily runs that lasted anywhere between 25 and 50 miles a day, completed the 2,520-mile run she became the first female to ever complete it, the only person to do it in the heat of summer and beat the record by 10 days.

"What an amazing accomplishment by an amazing person," said Dana Marie Kennedy, an Ahwatukee Foothills residents who joined the cause after meeting Neville at a local nail salon. "When you hear her story, what she has been through and what she set out to do, you instantly want to be part of it any way you can."

Neville was struck by the growing support she received through the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/#!/oneontherun?ref=ts) that documented her journey.

She had people wanting to hug her on her route, which basically followed Interstate 10's frontage rows, run with her and just congratulate her.

"The people who have the least to give, give the most," Neville said. "Their support is what helped get me through at times."

She received the key to the city in Las Cruces, N.M., had a large group following in Beaumont, Texas, that helped supply dinner each night and had an 11-year-old boy complete the final stretch of Texas to the Arkansas border.

"He was in that dorky stage, and he said he was getting picked on at school a little bit," Neville said of the 11-year-old named Jonathon. "I told him he didn't have to finish the run with me, but he said when he went back to school he'd be the only one able to say he ran with the lady who ran across the country so he escorted me to the state line.

"That was pretty amazing and from what I have been told he has come out of his shell a little bit since then."

It was just one of the hundreds of anecdotes Neville collected over the thousands of miles covered, topped off by 100 or so runners who followed her to the finish line in Jacksonville when she poured a bottle of Pacific Ocean water into the Atlantic Ocean.

"It was emotional for a lot if people, but it really didn't set in right away for me," Neville said. "I was just focused on the run. I was actually running better at the end, doing 10-minute miles, than at the beginning.

"I just hope people learned cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence. You can change the present and the future and I hope I was a beacon of hope. I wanted to keep going, run back home but they told me this great party is over."




Donations being accepted for ‘One on the Run’ program

Helene Neville’s journey across the country might have been  a solo act billed, “One on the Run” but the profits from it will help out plenty of people in need.

The funds raised will be donated to the Saint Francis de Sales Elementary School, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in Philadelphia on behalf of the Maryellen Rouse Neifert Memorial Fund.

The memorial was created in memory of Neville’s mother, who died of cancer.

Donations can still be made on her website, www.oneontherun.com.

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