Sara Garvey '17 Overcomes Leukemia, Returns to Track

For a runner like Sara Garvey ’17 of the Ithaca College track and field team, logging miles on the open road provided an escape. Running was her passion, but in 2012, it would suddenly be stripped away.

In Garvey’s senior year of high school, after her track and field team won the Vermont state indoor title, Garvey learned she had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She spent the next few years undergoing treatment, which subsequently caused osteonecrosis, a bone condition that halted Garvey from any weight-bearing activities.

She battled with the exhausting chemotherapy protocol for another two years before completing treatment in 2014. Since she was bedridden for so long during inpatient treatment, Garvey had to learn how to walk again.

The treatments that Garvey underwent kept her away from college for a year, but in fall 2013 she was able attend IC as an exercise science major. She spent her first two years on campus as a manager on the track and field teams, so she could still be around the sport that meant so much to her. Garvey’s teammates took her to Syracuse for once-a-month treatments, and Garvey remained involved by supporting her teammates at practices and meets.

Last January, Garvey’s doctors told her she was cleared to compete again in sprinting events. So Garvey began gearing up for her first collegiate race, working with IC’s sports medicine staff to progress slowly through her workouts to ensure that she could get through everything injury free.

“I never wanted to give up on track and field. I’ve been running since the age of seven,” Garvey said. “It’s been a big part of my life.”

Garvey’s first race came on April 26 at Butterfield Stadium. In cold and blustery conditions, Garvey competed in the 100-meter dash and placed seventh overall in a time of 15.14 seconds.

“To me, this was a new beginning: my first college race! I was super excited!” Garvey said. “My main goal was to make it to the finish line to the best of my physical ability.

”Her teammates and coaching staff greeted her at the finish line with congratulatory hugs and pure excitement, reaffirming for Garvey why she loves track and field so much.

“The constant support before, during, and after the race is what made it so great about coming back. No matter the outcome, in my mind that race just set a baseline mark,” Garvey said.