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Archives: The Names on Her Arms

Updated: May 13

The shutter of a finish line camera caught Bethany Heidemann with her hands aloft, her er eyes closed and a serene expression on her face at the finish line of the 2021 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. Etched on her forearms were the reasons she had run and finished her race: 26 ink-on-skin dedications to friends and family members who had fought or were fighting cancer.

1 Mom + Dad

2 Darlene   

3 Kelley

4 Robyn

Earlier that year, Bethany lost her father – “my biggest role model, my hero” – to a four-year cancer battle and learned her mother had stage 4 cancer.

“At that time, I had two choices,” Bethany shared, “Crawl in a hole and shut my heart down like I really wanted to do, or fight back in a way I can, to try to make a difference for mom, and anyone else fighting the battle or for those who lost loved ones to the horrific disease.”

5 Mary + Greg

6 Scott B

7 Deb

8 Aunt Debbie S.

“Mile one and mile 26 to 26.2 were dedicated to my mom and dad because they were my main why and reason for starting and ultimately finishing the marathon,” Bethany explained at the time.

"I also put them for mile 20 through 23 because I knew mentally those would be super hard miles. I personally have witnessed both of my parent’s strength and fight over the past four years, so it seemed appropriate associating these miles to them.”

“All of the names were people that I know very well,” the Cedar Falls, Iowa resident explained. “I am a nurse practitioner and own a skin and wellness clinic, so a few of them are my actual patients. Others are close family friends and family.”

9 Barb

10 Jerod & Rod

11 Grandpa Dale

12 Sammie

Bethany’s 2021 marathon journey began that June when she registered for her second-ever marathon just weeks after her father’s death.

“I ran the Chicago Marathon at the age of 25,” the then 39-year-old remembered. “Every bit of that race was a huge physical and mental obstacle just to see if I could finish a marathon.”

The objective of her 2021 race would be different.

13 Kris

14 Grandma Aurae

15 Emily

16 Lynette

“My why had changed. My why was no longer me just seeing if I had what it took to get to the finish line. My why this time was in full support of the fight my parents endured and mom still is.”

“This marathon was a life experience I will never forget. Only a small portion of it was about the run for me. This race was about healing, raising awareness, and supporting people who have fought a way bigger fight than conquering 26.2 miles.”

17 Uncle Dave

18 Therese

19 Susie

20 Mom + Dad

“Just running though, didn't seem enough,” Bethany remembered, “so I signed up through the American Cancer Society to raise money to support cancer awareness, research, and treatment advances. With the help of so many, I raised over $3000, my

goal was $500!”

21 Mom + Dad

22 Mom + Dad

23 Mom + Dad

But there was a personal reward as well, that her finish line photo seemed to capture.

“I crossed the finish line and felt the most surreal sense of peace,” Bethany shared. “Something I've been searching for since my dad's cancer diagnosis four years ago, my mom's diagnosis, and dad's passing.

“I also had the overwhelming feeling that I wasn't doing that run alone, and I'm guessing that meant dad was with me.”


24 Tara

25 Stan

26 – 26.2




This article originally appeared in the TCM's weekly e-newsletter, The Connection, in 2021. It was updated in the fall of 2023. Subscribe to the Connection here.

Photo by Ben Garvin.


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