CHICOPEE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Western Massachusetts welcomed a very special visitor over the weekend - a woman racing marathons in all 50 states after being diagnosed with ALS. On Sunday, that journey brought her to Memorial Park in Chicopee for race number 31.
Imagine going from young, healthy, and recently married to devastating diagnosis all in the blink of an eye.
"I was diagnosed at the age of 33 with ALS and I went from doing a half Ironman triathlon to walking with a cane in eight months,” said Andrea Lytle Peet.
She was the strongest she'd ever been, competing in triathlons alongside her father-in-law, David Peet, who is a retired doctor who told us it was heartbreaking to watch her lose motor skills right before his very eyes.
"You know, first I passed her on the bike part and I never passed her before, so you know...She was having trouble with motor strength,” David Peet explained.
Andrea was given between two and five years to live.
"I wanted to make my journey as good as it could be,” Andrea Lytle Peet noted.
She's now made it to year seven. She marked the milestone with a tattoo of a bird for each year she's survived post diagnosis, including one with a mask on for 2020.
"When I reached five years of living, I decided to set the craziest goal I could think of, which was to do a marathon in all 50 states,” Andrea Lytle Peet said.
This week alone, she has races in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
"I do a lot of cross-training, I swim, I do Pilates, and I trike a lot,” Andrea Lytle Peet added.
She's not letting her limitations get the best of her.
“Each day is a gift and you can push yourself farther than you realize and, you know, I just want people to appreciate what their bodies can do,” Andrea Lytle Peet said.
Andrea wears sensors while racing for research at the ALS Therapy Development Institute in Watertown. Her foundation has raised over half a million dollars towards finding a cure for ALS.
"Live to race another day,” Andrea Lytle Peet said.
Andrea plans to cross that 50th finish line by May 2022.