Mom Runs in 50 National Parks in Honor of Her Daughter Who Died of Cancer

Gil Schaenzle, 62, had originally planned on doing the 50 parks challenge with her daughter.

Last year, 62-year-old Gil Schaenzle came to her daughter with a wild idea. 

“'Honey ... I want to run in [50] national parks,’” Schaenzle recalled telling 21-year-old Anna Rose.

She asked her daughter, who was battling cancer, to join her as her driver once she was feeling better. But Anna Rose vowed to run the parks herself instead. 

"She was like, 'No. I’m going to run them all with you, Mom,’” Schaenzle told 

Anna Rose died just three months after that conversation, but the mother fulfilled her promise to her daughter nonetheless, finishing her run across 50 national parks in the United States, from the Dry Tortugas in Florida to Yosemite National Park in California, in Anna Rose's honor. 

“I did that for her,” Schaenzle said. “Her presence was very strong in all that time with me in the parks. She’d be proud.”

Schaenzle explained that their family has always been extremely active, often going fly fishing, hiking and backpacking together.

“She had to be an outdoor kid,” she said. “I actually nursed her in an avalanche slope so the poor kid didn’t have a chance.”

Schaenzle said her daughter began getting sick in high school, when she started needing an inhaler during volleyball practice and developed thyroid problems.

After graduating high school in 2014, Anna Rose took a gap year and traveled around Europe.

She began her freshman year at Colorado Mason University in Grand Junction the following year, but her "seemingly unrelated” symptoms worsened, and by spring, she was diagnosed with neuroendochrine tumors, or NET.

“We did receive a correct diagnosis immediately because she was so advanced by that stage,” her mom said. “It had metastasized to the liver, her spleen, her lungs. One of her tumors was the size of a basketball.”

The 10-pound tumor was so big that it had pushed her liver to the other side of her body.

Despite attempting to fight the cancer with chemotherapy and surgeries, Anna Rose died just nine months later, on March 26, 2017.

“She had wanted to blog and write a book about her experience with NET cancer but she was just too week,” Schaenzle said. “I think she’d be so glad [the 50 parks challenge] came to fruition and we are helping other NET patients.”

To donate to their mission, visit their page on Healing NET Foundation.