Lotatoa "Lota" Ward, an 8-year-old boy from Layton, Utah, ran a remarkable 33 miles even with a brain tumor. Now, after his fourth surgery, he's awaiting his next half marathon on May 30.
At the 50-mile Antelope Island Buffalo Run in Salt Lake City in March 2014, Lota grew tired after 33 miles—not because of any health ailment, but because his shoes were hurting his feet.
His first tumor wasn't discovered until October, at which point he had already completed three half marathons.
“We talked to him a lot trying to explain it to him, and we talked to him about how he conquered that big hill in his first half,” Lota’s mother, Rowena, said. “We told him that mental strength was the same strength he needed for his brain tumor, too.”
The tumor was removed in November. Known as a teratoma tumor, this type of benign tumor is capable of growing hair, teeth, and even skin. It’s not genetic in nature, but rather caused by misplaced tissue cells during development in the uterus.
Ninety days after having the tumor removed, the Ward’s went back in for a check-up, where it was discovered that the tumor grew to the size of a golf ball. The real scare came when the biopsy revealed that the cancer markers reached a dangerously high number — 27. The family quickly linked up with the oncology team at Primary Children’s Medical Center, where they put a port in Lota, so that he could begin receiving chemotherapy.
Lota was running through it all. He even did a 10-mile trail run four days after his biopsy.
Lota is already scheduled for his next half marathon on May 30 in Park City, Utah. His most recent surgery—his fourth—was on April 1, and his progress since has been documented on a Facebook page set up on his behalf.
A GiveForward.com page has also been set up for Lota, where donations can be submitted to benefit his treatments. As of Thursday morning, $1,120 had been raised.
- Mike FIammetta