When Chris Benyo and Denise DiMarzo got married, everything seemed possible. But just six months after the wedding things took a turn for the worse when Denise was diagnosed with the motor neuron disease, ALS.
Now five years into the disease, ALS has stripped her of the abilities to do everyday activities like walk and talk. But it hasn’t stopped her from staying true to a promise she and her husband made when they fell in love, through running.
“That was the whole plan when we got married in 2010, that she’d put in the training and we would run together and where she wanted to if she put in the training. Now were doing the next best thing that we can,” said Benyo, Denise’s Husband.
For them, that means still completing marathons, but in a different way. This is what preparing for a run looks like for Denise now.
Chris and a team of friends push Denise in a specially designed jogger throughout the races they’ve run since her diagnosis. All in an effort to give Denise the satisfaction athletes yearn for.
“When you have pushed yourself to the limit and moments of triumph when you’ve completed the goal, it takes your time, your complete determination and sheer willpower to stay in it and not give up,” said DiMarzo.
And that’s exactly what they’re doing this year as they prepare to complete their sixth marathon together, despite Denise’s continuing struggle with ALS.
“Her breathing is a little lower than it was back in November of 2014, she’s breathing now at about 13% down from 22% or 25% a year ago and other than that, she’s tough, she’s fighting it everyday but it’s getting harder for her to do things that she could do before. and that’s kind of like the nature of the disease,” said Benyo.
But Chris and Denise aren’t just fighting for themselves.
This year they’ll again run for the Les Turner ALS foundation to raise more money for ALS research and give others hope for their future.
“You can actually continue to live somewhat as normal as you can, and you know our saying is “all in,” and you have two choices when something like that happens, you can either just die with ALS or you can try to live with ALS, and Denise, since she is my hero, she’s definitely living with ALS and not dying with it,” said Benyo.
For Denise, each race is different than the one before, just as each month is different with ALS.
“It is as if my mind can separate from the disease and just take in the glory of the race. God willing, this will not be my last race. I don’t know what next year will look like, but I have my sights set on Boston, New Jersey, and Naperville in 2016. I don’t give up easily,” said DiMarzo.
Last year, Chris, Denise and their team who ran, raised almost $9,000 for the Les Turner ALS foundation.
Naperville News 17’s Alyssa Bochenek Reports.
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