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Suwanee mother on track with battling cancer

Today will be a big day for Genie Quinn. The Suwanee resident is taking on a one-third mile swim, an 18-mile bike ride and a three-mile run. And for a 57-year-old who never participated in sports in her life, those are pretty big steps.

Her inspiration is her daughter, Maureen, who in 1990 survived Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 10.

"This is nothing compared to what Maureen went through," Quinn said. "After enduring six cycles of chemotherapy and 15 days of radiation she achieved remission from the cancer."

When someone suggested that Quinn start training, she said, "I can't do that. I'm in my fifties."

But then the teacher of gifted children at Mason Elementary School thought again.

"I've always loved a challenge," she said, "and people were so wonderful to us while Maureen had cancer, I wanted a way to give back."

Quinn recalled a time when Maureen desperately needed treatment in New York City.

"We had no money for air fare and no time to drive. While we were sitting in a waiting room, a lady noticed Maureen had no hair and asked if she had cancer. She gave me a phone number for Corporate Angels, a group that airlifts children with cancer anywhere they need to go for free.

"I never saw (that lady) again. As I look back into the world, I see the average American is a fantastic person. People are always willing to help and I wanted to help, too."

Quinn started working out with The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team In Training which prepares everyday people to complete full and half marathons, triathlons and 100-mile cycling events while they, in return, raise money to help find cures.

"I was fascinated by this TNT experience and it reminded me that I can do anything as long as I focus on it."

Quinn ran her first half marathon in Alaska in 2003. She did a combination of running and walking but she got to the finish line. She and her husband did the race together and crossed the finish line holding hands, and together raised $8,000 for the cause.

"It gave me enough confidence in myself to get my master's degree," Quinn said. "I continually meet wonderful people and this really helps me stay in shape. I get much more out of it than I put into it."

Today's Aflac Iron Girl Atlanta Women's Triathlon at Lake Lanier Islands will be Quinn's fourth event and she is now a mentor with the program, for which Maureen is a full-time employee.

"I tell my team members that if I can do triathlons at 57 then anyone can do them. To me the (triathlon) is not about winning or placing in the top of the pack. It is more about finding out who I am and what I can do; it is about walking into old age with a positive attitude that I still can make a difference with myself and for society."

Because of people like the Quinns, TNT is celebrating its 20th anniversary. More than 380,000 people have trained with the program and raised more than $900 million for blood cancer research funding. TNT is recruiting for its winter season which includes events such as the Walt Disney World Marathon and Half marathon and the P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon in Phoenix. For more information, visit www.teamintraining.org.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.