Michele Holbrook is a runner– if you spotted her jogging on the street, you wouldn’t believe that her body was plagued by more than 20 tumors due to a rare disease.
Michele has three tumors in her brain, eight in her spine, more in her abdomen, more in her liver and finally, her pelvis. With every tumor, she has to get radiation or surgery done in order to remove them. It’s surprising she is even able to run at all.
The complications began at 25 years old but she didn’t get her official diagnosis until she was 30. Neurofibromatosis was a new word, but it became part of her daily vocabulary. With NF, tumors have a 1 percent chance of being malignant. In her case, all of them are benign. To learn more about NF, click here.
Now, 51-year-old Michele, wears a t-shirt that says “Born to Fight.” She has assumed the identity of a natural born fighter. It’s what keeps her going.
“You have to be a fighter and that’s what I am,” she said in an interview with 13wmaz. “It’s a tough disease. Not for me but for the children. You have to look at the kids who have this. My children and grandchildren and the others who don’t know what’s going on with this disease. As much as I can I try to be an advocate for them.”
Because NF is genetic, Michele fears that her father might have it because of the similar lesions on his back. Her grandmother had a tumor in her brain but back in that day, NF wasn’t a known thing. Michele herself didn’t know until she had her first son, who is now in his 20s.
She kept wondering if she had passed it to her kids, which is why she decided to stop having children. She doesn’t want to allow her children to go through what she’s experiencing. No matter where the tumors are, the pain is always present.
To motivate herself after her radiation, Michele took on Project Athena, located in Santa Barbara, California. This 24-hour 77-mile run was created to help people with medical conditions overcome their fears.
She took the fight to the pavement and overcame it. This is when she realized that she could use that same fortitude and resilience during her fight against the disease. She still yearns to find a cure for NF.
For that, she organized a Casino Royale fundraiser at Amelia Island Plantation Walkers Landing. All proceeds will benefit Children’s Tumor Foundation.