When Jacquelyn (Dahneke) Penrose was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, she underwent a common treatment route: chemotherapy, radiation and radical surgery. Her parents and five siblings stood beside her all the way.
All seemed well for three years following treatment. Then in January 2019 Jacquelyn was told the disease had returned as stage-four cancer and had spread throughout her body.
“There was nothing I could do as a father to take this cancer away,” Marshall Dahneke told MASSAGE Magazine. “You know, as a dad, you’re the provider, you’re the protector, and here’s this villain that I could do nothing about. The one thing I could do was join her on her journey.”
As Jacquelyn dramatically changed her diet to largely plant-based, whole, fresh, organic foods, the Dahneke parents—Marshall, now 57, and his wife Michelle—did so too.
For his part, Marshall Dahneke changed his diet overnight. He shaved his head when Jacquelyn lost her hair to chemotherapy. And, wanting to share a hobby that had been important to Jacquelyn, he eventually began to run.
“Jacquelyn was the first runner in our family,” he said. “She joined her cross-country team in middle school when nobody else in the family ran. And then every one of her siblings became a runner. And her mother became a runner. And ultimately, I started running.”
As Jacquelyn continued to battle cancer, her father continued beside her on her path as best he could. With the increased exercise and dietary changes, between January and October 2019, he dropped 85 pounds, going from 230 to 145.
Sadly, Jacquelyn entered hospice in November 2021. She passed away from the cancer in February 2022 at age 32.
Marshall Dahneke has maintained his healthy diet and he is still running, in large part to remember his daughter—and now with an additional focus: to honor Jacquelyn by running the 2023 Boston Marathon and raising funds for massage therapy with some of those funds earmarked for cancer-related community service projects—using an approach that has never been undertaken before.
Running for Massage Therapy
As CEO of Performance Health (maker of Biofreeze) from 2008 to 2018, and today as operating partner at Gridiron Capital LLC, which previously owned Performance Health, Dahneke has networked with a variety of health care professions. Of them all, he says, he felt most accepted by the people in the massage therapy field.
“You embrace the massage profession, that massage profession embraces you back,” he said, adding that he had a “huge, enormous blessing and advantage” of working with Lynda Solien-Wolfe, who introduced him to the massage field. She also worked at Performance Health when Dahneke was there, and the two have maintained a collegial relationship since they both moved on from that company.
“I love the massage profession. I love my daughter. I love running,” he said, explaining his commitment to running the 2023 Boston Marathon and raising funds for massage.
The Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF) a 501(c)3 that supports the massage field through research grants, education and community service, has since 2013 been provided bibs by John Hancock, the sponsor of the Boston Marathon, through which the MTF’s Running for Research team raises funds.
The MTF is never guaranteed to receive bibs—but Dahneke has decided that either way, he doesn’t want to use up one of the MTF’s valuable bibs if they are again awarded for 2023.
What is Dahneke’s plan? After qualifying for the Boston Marathon in early June on his own merits, he will raise funds for massage by networking with suppliers of products and services that are a fit for the massage field, some of whom haven’t yet been active in this field. Those companies will sponsor Dahneke with funds that will go toward massage therapy community service projects.
“I’d love to see some of these brands join us in this journey this year—and then continue going forward and be more closely associated with and supportive of the massage profession,” Dahneke said. “And if we can get some brands in our space that embrace massage, I’m hopeful that massage therapists will embrace those brands back.”
Solien-Wolfe believes Dahneke will succeed on his journey. “His drive is incredible,” she said. “He’s very competitive, and if he says he’s going to do something, he will get it done. He takes his drive and determination into all aspects in life.”
Another colleague of Dahneke’s, Mary White, LMT, who has been a paid massage therapist at the Boston Marathon since 1996 and also volunteers for the Massage Therapy Foundation, has “not a shadow of a doubt” that Dahneke will achieve his goals.
“I’m rooting for him. He’s going to be awesome,” White said. “His enthusiasm is just super infectious when you talk to him about it. I think the opportunity is there for [the fundraising] to be hugely successful—and if anyone can do it, I believe Marshall can.”
Dahneke is not alone in his journey. His colleagues and sponsors support him, and at the top of the list of those cheering him on is his family. Also with him, still, is his daughter, Jacquelyn, in whose memory he runs.
While on his 20-mile training runs near his home in Utah, Dahneke recites a mantra created from the acronym FIRST to help him keep going: “I’m fast, I’m inspired by my daughter, I’m resilient, I’m strong, I’m TNT (‘explosive’ and focused on ‘today, not tomorrow – I did modify this last one since we spoke),” he said. “Jacquelyn is right in the middle of my mantra.”
[Visit The Jacquelyn Project’s home page for an overview of the project, sponsor highlights, and Marshall Dahneke’s donation link.]
Marshall Dahneke will author a column to bring MASSAGE Magazine’s audience along on his journey while also providing information about self-care to massage therapists, who also need to possess health, strength and endurance. The first installment of his column, “The Jacquelyn Project: Becoming an Endurance Athlete,” will post to massagemag.com on Aug. 4, 2022.
About the Author
Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor in chief – print and digital. She has reported or edited freelance for On the Wing and Imagine magazines, LIVESTRONG and the Sacramento Bee and Mid-County Post newspapers. Her recent articles include, “Massage in the Hospital: At Work on the Pain-Care Team” and “Olympic Track-and-Field Athlete Ronnie Baker: Massage Allows Me to Perform at the Highest Level.”