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Inspirational Pocatello girl battling cancer

As a journalist, you look for inspirational stories to share with others. You hope to meet people who inspire everyone around them.

I experienced that very thing Friday while covering a PTA convention in Pocatello.

When starting the story, I knew it would be about parents helping kids.

What I didn’t know is that a third-grader fighting cancer is helping other children do the same.

“One million starts with one,” said Tenley Curtiss.

Tenley was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 6 years old.

“My Dad’s friend Drew donated some money to help me when I first had my first surgery,” she said, sitting with her mother, Kim. “and so we just wanted to help everybody that had cancer.”

That was the start of the Tenley Foundation.

The Tenley Foundation focuses on the things not paid for by insurance; money for gas to and from the hospital (usually Primary Children’s in Salt Lake City), meals along the way, and some medical expenses when it can.

A family friend mentioned that her brother, Mike Evans, was looking to run across the state of Idaho, and suggested they meet.

Evans had been a runner since he was a kid, but was always more interested in the extreme long distances.

He immediately jumped on board a fundraiser idea, as Tenley’s struggle with cancer is very familiar to him.

“It’s a lot tougher dealing with cancer than it is running. Trust me,” said Evans. “I was diagnosed with prostate cancer eight years ago yesterday, actually. Which is kind of weird this is happening today.”

Last summer the run took place. He ran about 50 miles a day for nine days.

It was very meaningful to him in several ways. He started the run on June 8, the day his parents would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

He began that day with breakfast made by his father, something his mother would normally do. She passed away three years before that. He wanted to pay tribute to his mother.

Along the way, he was helped by his own family, along with the family and friends of the Curtiss family. Many of the kids helping also had cancer.

“It’s got to be tough, trying to grow up and be a kid,” Evans said. “But you’re an adult at the same time because you’ve got to deal with these life-threatening diseases day after day.”

He originally planned to do the run simply to challenge himself.

“Initially I just wanted to do it just to see what I could do,” Evans said.

He had been contemplating the run for three years, but had never really found that motivation to actually do.

“Towards the end I needed a higher purpose to keep going every morning. Because it’s not easy just to get up and run 50 miles a day.”

He said he found the motivation in Tenley, her foundation, and all those her foundation has helped.

“You know, you can stop running whenever you want. But these kids can’t stop having cancer.”

Mike and Tenley have been friends ever since the run. When Mike was ready to complete the run and cross the finish line, the families gathered at the end, and all the kids ran to him, and ran back with him over the finish line.

It’s fitting that Evans ran a marathon for the Tenley Foundation, as Tenley’s battle has become quite the marathon itself.

The tumor in her brain is still growing despite two surgeries, and more surgeries would increase risk of vision loss and paralysis.

But with all this, Tenley still says she’s more worried about not being able to play with friends.

Tenley’s mom asked, “Does having cancer scare you?”

“No,” Tenley said.

I asked, “No way, seriously?”

“No,” she said simply. “I’m not worried to die.”

For more information about Tenley and her foundation, click here.

To see pictures from Mike’s run last June, click here.

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