Avid runner doesn’t let brain cancer change her course

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CARLSBAD, Calif. - A local woman was training for her 19th marathon when a discovery stopped her in her tracks.

Monika Allen has been running marathons for 10 years, but two years ago, the then 34-year-old was diagnosed with an incurable brain cancer.

"It was definitely scary," said Allen. "The first thing I asked was if I could still run the race, but I had to have brain surgery.”

The location of the cancer has been deemed inoperable, but Allen underwent brain surgery to install a shunt, a device that drains excess fluid down to her stomach. She said since the surgery, her headaches are gone.

After Allen's diagnosis, the ability to lace up her shoes took on an even greater significance.

"Running has really helped me deal with the gravity of the situation,” said Allen, who works as a marketing specialist for a biotech company in Carlsbad. “It made me feel like the person I was before."

Allen crossed off the first thing on her post-operation bucket list in July by completing the Barb's Women's Half Ironman with five of her closest friends.

"Three of us actually finished side by side...to be able to finish together was really fun, too,” she said.

Allen and her friends are now working on their costumes for the San Diego Brain Tumor Walk, where they will compete as the Unicorn Running Club.

Allen was invited to run as one of 24 “Global Heroes” in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon this fall. Global Heroes are long distance runners from around the world who are diagnosed with medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, spinal disorders, neurological disorders and more.