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Brother runs 100 miles to honor sister

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UPDATE: West Baton Rouge native Michael Willis began his 100 mile run in honor of his sister Rachael Saturday morning.

Saturday night as he approached the 60th mile, Michael decided to end his quest for 100 miles due to the physical demand and toll it had taken.

With the huge outpouring of support and awareness, Michael calls the experience a success and vows to continue running for Rachael. 


BATON ROUGE- “Running for Rachael,” those are three small words with one much larger meaning.

“That was a young woman who loved everything there was to love about life. I mean, never took a moment for granted. Her heart was her greatest asset, I mean she just loved and cared for people,” said Rachael’s brother, Michael.

Michael shares memories of his older sister, her love for life and can do spirit. It's those memories he has left. Rachael was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma in 2004. Five months later she went into remission, but it was at a routine follow up an appointment that she learned her cancer returned more aggressive than before.

Doctors told Rachael and her family she would need a stem cell transplant.

“Very luckily I was able to be the donor,” said Michael.

Michael was a match, the transplant happened, and at first, the outcome seemed promising. Until the cancer returned. Few experimental treatments followed but to no avail

“The doctors sat my family down and said you know it would be best to bring her back to Baton Rouge, let everybody see her, kind of say their goodbyes,” said Michael. ”

Since then, Michael has searched for ways to honor his sister. Now, fast forward 11 years, and he's lacing up for his biggest tribute ever.

“Running is just one of those things, you just need a pair of shoes,” said Michael. ”

Michael is currently in the midst of those 100 miles through his hometown of Brusly months of long hours spent training, races around the country and motivation from family and friends have gone into this effort all for his big sister!

“I think if she were out there and saw that my ankle was broken, yeah she'd tell me to stop, but she'd also be my biggest cheerleader to go and to do, help in any way that you can,” said Michael.

Even with all his preparations, the feat is still daunting.

“It’s not the fear of whether or not I can do it, it's just if something goes wrong, you have to deal with that going wrong for so long,” said Michael.

But until he crosses that finish line Sunday morning on what would've been Rachael's 36th birthday, Michael will be using those three small words, “Running for Rachael,” as his motivation.

“She didn't live in the comfort zone by a stretch of the means. Whatever it takes to help other people, that's where she was,” said Michael.

Click here to learn more or to donate to Running for Rachel.

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