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Woman who ran across all 50 states celebrates remission

Helene Neville and her grandchildren rang the bell at the Jamestown Fire Department to mark one year since she has been in remission from stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

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Helene Neville celebrated the one-year anniversary of her being in remission from stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Neville has run across every state in the U.S. and was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma after she accepted an assignment in Bismarck in September 2020 to be close to her grandchildren and her son Danny Neville, who is the head coach of the University of Jamestown men's basketball team. Also pictured are her grandchildren, Emma and Landon Neville.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN – A 61-year-old Jamestown woman who has run across every state in the U.S. and her grandchildren rang the bell at the Jamestown Fire Department Monday, May 23, to mark one year since she has been in remission from stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“I’m ringing this bell today in honor of someone who has died of cancer, someone fighting cancer or even someone who has had cancer and has healed from it and for all those who support cancer patients,” Helene Neville said.

She said the news of her remission one year ago came with caution.

“There is a high risk of a relapse,” she said.

Neville is a registered nurse, grandmother, writer, speaker and athlete who has completed runs from California to Florida; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to Tijuana, Mexico; Florida to Maine; eastern Maine to Washington; Wyoming to West Virginia; West Virginia to Nevada; the perimeter of Oahu, Hawaii; and over 850 miles in Alaska. She is the fifth person and the oldest person to ever run the perimeter of the continental U.S. Over nine years beginning in 2010, she ran for a total of 13,850 miles.

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“You are the queen of running,” said Neville’s grandson, Landon. Neville said Landon and her granddaughter, Emma, tell her they helped make her better.

Neville is a traveling nurse who worked in a community in New Mexico during the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 before starting an assignment in Bismarck in September 2020 so she could be close to her grandchildren and her son, Danny Neville, head coach of the University of Jamestown’s men’s basketball team. She has since moved to Jamestown.

A little after a month at her assignment in Bismarck, she became ill and was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma that had already spread to her liver and spleen. Her diagnosis was followed by a case of COVID, sepsis and shingles, and her chemotherapy was delayed for six weeks.

Neville later went through six rounds of chemotherapy in CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck and two rounds at the Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo.

It wasn’t the first time Neville survived cancer though. In the '90s she survived stage 1 Hodgkin lymphoma, three brain abscesses and three brain surgeries.

In 2010, she began her run around the U.S. to prove to others that there is goodness everywhere and to give people hope by demonstrating what’s physically and mentally possible despite all odds.

“I just wanted to be out there and people to see what I’m doing here, my story, that display of me out there will give them hope that life doesn’t end with a diagnosis,” she said. “You can still be out there and lead by example. There is always somebody worse off, but I kept going because I wasn’t finished running or showing people that we can still try.”

She said during the runs she saw that there is more good than she ever imagined.

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“I proved that on the run and again here when I got sick and stayed,” she said. “Everybody was just open arms for me in North Dakota.”

Neville has spoken in 50 states in more than 300 hospitals, cancer centers, institutions, schools, corporations and Tedx. Throughout her runs, she addressed her logistical challenges of running around the country without a crew or backup team.

She has run through the summer heat in the South, record humidity in the Midwest, wildfires in the West, treacherous terrain, blizzards in the mountains and hurricanes. She continued running through altitude sickness, constant logistical and financial issues, a broken heel bone, broken rib, a new cancer diagnosis and an attempted assault and abduction.

Neville has also written three books and plans to release additional books. She was featured in Liz Vassey’s documentary, “The Human Race,” and honored as a star on The Flag for Hope, one of 50 Americans chosen for the honor.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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