ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – Holly Hillberg grew up in Escanaba. However, it wasn’t until she moved to the Finger Lakes region of New York decades later that she discovered her passion for running.
“I started running when I was 50, which was kind of shocking because I hated running,” Hillberg recalled.
Then, she discovered something else she was passionate about.
“Soon after that, I got this card from Gilda’s Club, which is a cancer support organization,” said Hillberg. “They were training to run a half-marathon in Rochester, New York, and I thought, ‘That’s really great because I could be running and now have a cause.'”
One month later, Hillberg was diagnosed with uterine cancer.
“No one expected me to have cancer,” she said. “I was a runner, I ate really healthy, all that, but I had an uncommon, aggressive, commonly-recurring form of cancer—like none of the things you want to hear.”
Hillberg says it was a frightening diagnosis, but she kept running.
“The day I had my hysterectomy I ran, I ran through chemo and radiation. The first week in September that year, I actually had chemo on Tuesday, radiation on Thursday, and I ran my first half-marathon ever on Sunday.”
Later that year, Hillberg completed a marathon.
“Really skinny, really bald, and collecting fans all over the place when they heard my story,” Hillberg said with a smile. “It was quite an accomplishment.”
Since then, she has never stopped running. Hillberg even embarked on a mission to run a half marathon in every state.
“In March, I just finished my 50th state, finishing a half-marathon in Hawaii,” she said.
To date, Hillberg has completed 91 half marathons and five full marathons. She still returns to Escanaba every year for a visit and a run in her hometown.
‘Whenever I’m here, I always make sure I run around Ludington Park,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite places to run.”
Since her hysterectomy ten years ago, Hillberg has had no issues caused by cancer and is in remission. She says she is inspired by the survivors who came before her, and she hopes to be an inspiration to those who will come after her.
“I try to help people that get diagnosed and try to counsel people how to try to get through it,” she said. “Even when you think you’re not going to get there, you can do it. There is life after cancer.”