Although the passing of his stepdaughter is still fresh in his mind, Ethan Michaels has felt community support for Abby Bryant like never before.
Philip Biwott, 37, Sarah Jebet, 30, and John Ewoi, 37, ran the Bluenose Marathon in Bryant’s name, each wearing a tank top with her face on it. They are from a small village in Kenya and met Michaels over a year ago when he ran the Rift Valley Marathon.
“I thought what a tribute it would be, to our community, to have these people run in our community. So we offered the first prize winners of the races to come to Halifax,” Michaels said.
“Unfortunately, upon their arrival, Abby succumbed to the very thing that saved her, and that was the radiation and the chemo.”
Bryant was diagnosed with lymphoma when she was a child, a cancer affecting the immune system and white blood cells. Although the cancer itself was cured, it later caused her lungs to develop scar tissue, making breathing more difficult. Bryant passed away on May 8 while waiting for a lung transplant.
In 2012, Bryant and four others helped bring The Friends of Gilda’s Society Nova Scotia to the province as a cancer support program. Their aim was to provide support and awareness to those living with and alongside cancer.
This is a very difficult time, but that was her dream and we want to pass her dream onto the community, and (to) other children who have suffered, and to other families who have suffered,” said Michaels.
This goal continued in the Bluenose marathon on May 18.
“Although she’s dead, we will remember her through this run,” Biwott said.
You have an opportunity to make a difference and be the difference, or have no difference. Abby always made a difference and we’re going to make a difference also.”
And make a difference they did. The attention the three Kenyans received was nothing short of celebrity status, with strangers walking up to them and asking if they would pose for a photo.
The run also held additional significance. It was a chance for Biwott, Jebet and Ewoi to show their support for Michaels and others during the difficult time following Bryant’s death.
“In the world everyone wants to be happy,” Biwott said.
The way we are here now, in Halifax, we wanted him (Michaels) to be happy despite losing his daughter and this is one way, through sports, through this running we want him to feel, really, we are also part of him.”
For Michaels, it was a reminder of what Bryant had struggled with since she was a child.
Health,” he said. “Never forget. It’s not a given. It’s a gift.”