When Greg Tanenbaum’s beloved grandfather, known as Poppy, was dealt an acute myeloid leukemia (AML) diagnosis and an estimated 48 hours to live in January of 2017, Greg and his family were devastated. Poppy was not only Greg’s grandfather; he was also Greg’s best friend and number one fan, present at all sporting events and family gatherings with a smile on his face and a joke to tell.
Dr. Gail Roboz and the Leukemia Program team at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (WCM/NYP) quickly sprang into action, treating Poppy with a therapeutic regimen meant to keep the cancer at bay and preserve quality of life. As a result, Greg and his family got an extra 15 months with Poppy, during which, Poppy refused to let leukemia stop him from doing what he loved.
Despite his fatigue, Poppy never failed to show up to support his 16 grandchildren at their various athletic competitions, even attending a state championship diving meet with his hospice nurse to cheer on one of Greg’s cousins.
“It’s been said that the best gift you can give someone is your time, because you’re giving them something you can never get back,” says Greg. “Poppy made it clear we were worth every second.”
Poppy passed in March of 2018, but not without leaving a powerful impact on his family.
Inspired by Poppy’s gratitude, perseverance and positivity in the face of cancer, Greg, a former college wrestler with little racing experience, decided to run the 2018 New York City Marathon in honor of his grandfather.
In partnership with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training fundraising program, Greg headed into the race backed by 160 donors and about $30,000, which he donated to the Leukemia Fighters at WCM/NYP to support the clinical and translational research efforts of Dr. Roboz and the Leukemia Program.
On marathon day, Greg knocked out the first 20 miles at an 8-minute mile pace before sustaining an injury that would make for a grueling 6.2 remainder. But just like his grandfather, Greg refused to quit.
“Running 26.2 miles is time consuming and difficult,” says Greg. “But my ‘why’ was the most incredible person I was so lucky to know and love.”