Good News Blog

Race for the Cure

Monday, Jan. 22, 2007

Woman goes extra mile for race for the cure

After volunteering for two years for the Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure, Tammie Sand-Benson felt she needed to do more.

So Sand-Benson joined the committee that plans and organizes the annual event, which raises funds for breast cancer research and promotes breast cancer health programs in the Brainerd lakes area.

As team chair, she’s responsible for the more than 40 teams that participate each year. She also updates the information on the Web site. A new Web site will be launched today.

“It feeds my soul, it really does, especially on race day itself,” Sand-Benson said of participating in the event. “You can feel the optimism on that day.”

Sand-Benson knows the fear, worry and uncertainty felt by a family when a loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer. Her mother, Lois Sand, Albany, was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in March of 2002. That July, Sand-Benson organized her first family team to participate in the Race for the Cure, called the Sand Gang. They included her husband, Jim; their two young sons; her parents, her two brothers and their wives and their children.

“It was a very emotional time,” Sand-Benson explained. “It was so emotional. And it was so inspiring for her to see all these women in their pink shirts not only surviving, but flourishing in life.”

After undergoing a mastectomy, a round of radiation and an ongoing struggle with lymphedema in her right arm following her surgery, Sand-Benson’s mom will celebrate her fifth anniversary this year as a breast cancer survivor, an important milestone in cancer recovery. The Race for the Cure has become a family tradition for the 25 members of their Sand Gang team. Sand-Benson said her family, which includes her sons, Reese, 8, and Blair, 6, participate in the one-mile family walk while her husband Jim participates in the 5K run. Jim is the general manager at the Lodge at Brainerd Lakes in Baxter.

Originally from Albany, Sand-Benson has lived in the Brainerd lakes area for 10 years. She met her husband at a hospitality trade show in Minneapolis when she had been working in the hospitality industry in St. Cloud and he worked at Madden’s Resort. Sand-Benson is a St. Cloud State University graduate who majored in geography.

At her part-time job as the youth ministry assistant at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Baxter, Sand-Benson plans youth retreats and mostly deals with planning involving the church’s confirmation classes.

She and her husband teach their son Blair’s first-grade Sunday School class together. Last year she taught son Reese’s class so this year it was Blair’s turn, she said. Her family is her top priority but her work with the Race for the Cure is also an important part of her life, she said.

Sand-Benson hopes that one day there will be a cure for breast cancer, not so much because she worries about herself one day being diagnosed with the disease but because she knows what a cancer diagnosis does to an entire family. Her parents drove from Albany to Baxter on a Friday night to tell them in person. Her mom had surgery that following Monday.

“I just don’t want any family to feel that again,” said Sand-Benson. “It doesn’t just affect the person with breast cancer. It affects your family and your friends.”

Thursday, May. 18, 2006

Relay participants walking for a cure

Liz Meadows will be fairly easy to distinguish from other walkers at the beginning of the 2006 American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

She’ll be the one with 17 inches of red hair. But by the end, it may be a little more difficult to spot her.

She’ll be bald. Not from chemotherapy or radiation, but by choice.

A front desk clerk at Best Western in Barboursville, she plans to shed her locks for the cause and to honor her father, Jimmie L. Donnel of Bayard, N.M.

Meadows is an ovarian cancer survivor and said she’ll cut off her hair if Team Best Western meets or exceeds its fundraising goal at the event, which begins at 6 p.m. Friday night at Huntington High School’s track and continues for 12 hours.

On Wednesday, she went wig shopping.

Her parents, Jimmie and Wanda, are living through the nightmare of cancer again since his cancer diagnosis earlier this year. In fact, it was Meadows’ dad who suggested cutting her long red hair, even though he loves it.

“It’s just hair, it will grow back,” Meadows said.

Once shorn, a child in the Locks of Love program will receive a wig made from the hair.

Sherry Kincaid, community manager of the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, expects 3,000 walkers and between 400 and 500 cancer survivors to participate in the relay.

This year’s fundraising goal is $140,000, which is 10 percent more than last year’s effort.

“It’s a way to bring awareness to people,” said T.C. Clemons of Huntington, a breast cancer survivor. She’ll head up a team of students, parents and staff from Highlawn Elementary where she teaches.

Clemons looks at the annual relay as a time of bonding with others and seeing just how much support is out there.

“Sometimes you think it’s just you,” Clemons said. But at the relay, she’s found exactly how many people she knows who have been through the same experience of either being a patient, survivor or caregiver.

The Relay for Life will begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday at Perry Morris Square in Milton. In keeping with the event’s theme of the Olympics, a torch relay will make it’s way 27.5 miles to Huntington High, where the flame will be transferred to the on-site torch.

Lighting the torch will be Sean Hammack, a senior at St. Joseph Central High School in Huntington. A cancer patient, Hammack is currently in physical therapy, Kincaid said.

“Everyone knows someone who’s had cancer,” Meadows said. “It’s touches everyone in the community in some way.”

Meadows, along with everyone else who participates by walking, providing food and other refreshments, or contributing money, has a common goal.

“I’ve seen too much,” Meadows said. “I won’t stop until there’s a cure.”

Tuesday, Mar. 21, 2006

Eighth annual race for the cure: 94 and eager to help

Ruth Protas is 94 and blind.

But that’s not stopping her from training to walk in this year’s 2006 Southern Arizona Race for the Cure on April 2.

The fundraiser at Reid Park is sponsored by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

“Nobody in my family has had breast cancer and I’ve never done this before,” Protas said.

She said she feels people “are always helping me” and “I want to be on the giving side.”

“I must do something. I am so psyched about it. I hope everything goes well.” Protas said.

Last April the race raised a record-breaking $808,000, surpassing the goal of $650,000 set by the cancer foundation.

This year, organizers are hoping for more.

Protas hopes the money she raises for breast cancer research can make a difference in someone’s life someday.

“Then I’ll feel my life was worth living,” she said.

As a race participant, Protas must collect her own sponsors, who pledge money to the breast cancer foundation.

“I’m getting a lot of money,” she said. “I never liked asking for money but once I got started it was easier.”

A maintenance man at the retirement apartment home where she lives made her a cardboard box with a slip on it announcing her participation in the race. This way she can easily distribute fliers without having to search around for potential sponsors.

The one thing Protas never feels is sorry for herself.

“I never said ‘Why me?’ when I became blind about 13 years ago,” she said. “Although I’m blind, I’m normal.”

Her husband, an executive at a luxury watchmaking company, died in 1973. They lived in New Jersey and he worked in New York.

Protas came to the United States as a young girl after her father was killed by Bolsheviks in Poland because he was Jewish.

Her mother brought her and four siblings to this country when she was 8.

“The day after I arrived I turned 9,” she recalled.

Her son, a physician, lives in Phoenix, where she lived until moving to Tucson a few years ago to be close to her two grandsons and their families.

Protas shops at Trader Joe’s, makes her own breakfast and lunch and takes a lot of vitamins.

She dresses herself, having matched her wardrobe by color and identifies the pieces with a beaded safety pin system.

“I like being independent,” she said.

She does laps on her balcony, in her kitchen and walks on a treadmill.

Her grandson and his wife train with her on weekends.

“It was her idea, not ours,” said Josh Protas. “Grandma exercises daily.”

Is he worried she may fall and hurt herself?

“I’m not concerned about that at all,” he said. “She’s in such great shape. She dances.”

Ruth Protas said her doctors have offered to walk with her and that her grandson will hold her hand during her “race” walk.

She’s still not sure just what she’ll wear on her feet on race day.

“I have a bone spur on my right big toe. I tried sneakers. I tried loafers.”

Sunday, Jan. 22, 2006

Thousands support finding a cure

When Christine Denahan stood proudly among the breast cancer survivors at Saturday’s Race for the Cure, something bothered her.

Denahan, 33, saw there weren’t many her age who were celebrating their survival of the disease.

“When I was on stage, I noticed there was not enough young women up there,” Denahan said. “The current standards are to have your first mammogram when you are 40. It’s important to have it done sooner. Early detection is what can save you. It saved me.”

Denahan, of Boynton Beach, had the best finish of breast cancer survivors in the women’s 5K race with a time of 23 minutes, 55 seconds.

The best overall time was by another runner who also could have looked around and seen many women older than she was.

Ashley Brasovan, 15, of Wellington, posted a winning time of 17:48, finishing ahead of North Palm Beach’s Linda Neary-Robb, 41, who ran the Flagler Drive course in 18:04.

Brasovan, a freshman at Wellington High who won a 6A state cross-country title, doesn’t know any breast cancer survivors, but understood the significance of the race.

“I just did it for the cause,” Brasovan said.

Brasovan won the 14-and-under division at last year’s Race for the Cure with a time of 19:00.

“Last year, I ran with a fever,” Brasovan said. “I haven’t been competitively running lately. It’s sort of between seasons for me and I was just using it to get ready for track, because I’ll probably be doing the mile and 2-mile.”

This year, a healthy Brasovan had an easy time topping the women’s field of 1,925 runners.

The men’s 5K race had 1,215 participants and was won by Boynton Beach’s Ryan White in 16:22.

Two years ago, Denahan saw her doctor about possible cosmetic surgery, which required a mammogram.

The exam showed she had breast cancer. Denahan had surgery and began hormone therapy.

“If I had not gone in and had that done, I never would have known,” Denahan said. “Women in their 20s and 30s shouldn’t wait to have a mammogram.”

After being declared cancer-free, she entered the Race for the Cure for the first time last year.

“I really just wanted to beat 24 minutes, and I knew I had a shot when I made the turn and didn’t see many people in pink,” Denahan said, referring to the pink bibs used to designate competitors who are cancer survivors.

Denahan, who also participates in triathlons, was active before she was treated for cancer, but she said that, since beating the disease participating in sports has taken on a new meaning.

“It’s different when you are a survivor,” Denahan said. “You just can never let it get you down. It’s my new attitude.”

Saturday, Jun. 18, 2005

Meet The Woman Behind The Komen Race For The Cure

More than 60,000 people will be in downtown St. Louis June 18 for the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure. It is a national event, held in cities all across America at different times.

In St. Louis on the day before the race, volunteers worked to set up boxes, tables and tents near the race route. While the preparation continued with hundreds of volunteers, few actually knew much about the woman who started the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the Race for the Cure.

She told Newschannel Five’s Karen Foss about why she began her mission and about her sister, the woman who inspired this emotional event.

“My sister was my best friend, and she was just an amazing person,” said Nancy Brinker, Susan Komen’s sister.

Childhood holds wonderful memories for Brinker.

“We had a wonderful time growing up in Peoria, (Illinois),” she recalled.
“We always did a lot of things together, including fundraising from the time I was five and she was eight.”

When big sister Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer at 33, it was Brinker’s turn to be the strong one. The year was 1977.

“And at the time, there were no 1-800 numbers. There were no patient support groups for young women. There was no internet. Comprehensive cancer centers were out of reach for most people,” she said.

“The words ‘breast cancer’ were scarier to some people than the disease, because people were terrified of the treatment, terrified of having to have a mastectomy, and she was young and beautiful, and she was frightened from the beginning,” Brinker said.

During the next three years, Susan would undergo nine operations, radiation, and three rounds of chemotherapy. But the treatment was no match for the disease.

Brinker’s time with her big sister was coming to an end.

“She asked if I would do something to make sure other people didn’t suffer the way our family had, and she had, and I committed I would,” Brinker remembers.

Susan Komen died in 1980. She was 36. Two years later, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation was born.

“Our first event being in 1982, and Race for the Cure in 1983 was the first Race for the Cure in Dallas, Texas,” Brinker said.
“I always had a big vision. I didn’t know what path it was going to take, but I knew it had to be big.”

Today there are Komen affiliates or a Race for the Cure in 114 United States cities, as well as Italy, Puerto Rico and Germany.
The foundation has raised hundreds of millions of dollars and given away over half a billion to research and breast health programs, but there’s more work to be done.

Be a Survivor: Your Guide to Breast Cancer Treatment (2nd Edition)
Amazon discount!
“We must make more headway with women with metastatic disease. We must move to the next plateau, which is making breast cancer a manageable disease, not a killing disease, making sure that woman with it have a higher quality of life,” Brinker said.

That’s a mission Nancy Brinker is dedicated to carrying out. Her big sister would have wanted it.

“She was an amazing person and she deserved to have her name known for what she believed in, because she was so special,”
Brinker emphasized. “At the same time she recognized that her story was really every woman’s story. It isn’t just our story. It happens to all the families who suffer with breast cancer.”

Tuesday, Jun. 14, 2005

2005 Komen St. Louis Race For The Cure Already Setting Records

It will be a record setting year for a group that raises money for breast cancer research and screening. Organizers of the 2005 Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure announced Sunday they already have more people registered for the run-walk than ever before – and the race is still a week away.

Race co-chair Helen Chesnut says, “Last year we were at 50,698. This year we are already at 52,000 as of this afternoon. So we are way ahead of schedule.”

There are more breast cancer survivors this year, nearly 3,200 as compared to about 3,000 last year. There are also more teams. This year 746 have signed up. There were about 500 last year. Chesnut says, “This is going to be our biggest race that St. Louis has ever seen this year.”

Then there’s the money. Their goal is to raise $1.75 million. They are well on their way to reaching that goal. With help from some Cardinal’s wives, the survivors held a fundraising drive outside Busch Stadium Sunday. Again, they surpassed last year raising more than $46,000 as compared to $42,000 last year.

The reason for all this record setting? Organizers chalk it up to the St. Louis spirit. Chesnut says, “I think we as a city are just really embracing the idea that we have a chance to eradicate breast cancer. And because breast cancer affects so many of us, we just really want to get out there and support the cause.”

Volunteers spent Sunday evening loading up box after box of t-shirts for the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, still they don’t have enough. They’ve had to order 3,000 more, and there’s still a week until race day. Plenty of time to think pink, and plenty of time to push for more racers. Co-Chair Dede Hoffmann says, “We set a 52,000 goal and we’ve met that. So anything above that is just icing on the cake actually.”

There are still plenty of options to register. There will be a registration blitz on Wednesday at the St. Louis Galleria. You can also sign up online until Friday or in person on race day which is Saturday.

Sunday, Jun. 5, 2005

Race for the Cure Attracts 600 Survivors – including a wedding party

Organizers say the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure in Madison gets bigger and better every year. Saturday an estimated 7,500 hundred people walked or ran in the annual fundraiser to fight breast cancer.

Evie Hungerford brought about 50 loved ones to celebrate a milestone.

“Five years last month,” she says.

Five years cancer-free …

Doctors diagnosed Hungerford with cancer when she was 46 years old.
She has taken part in Madison’s Race for the Cure ever since.

“Any funds that we can raise that are going to eliminate breast cancer is so critical,” Hungerford says.

Her team is raising $1,500.

But Hungerford is one of roughly 600 other survivors at this year’s celebration of life.

“I guess the main reason I walk is because I know my daughter is at risk.”

But today marks another major step for the Hungerford family.

“It’s so very touching to me that she’s going to include me in her day,” Hungerford says.

Once Evie Hungerford and her daughter race for a cure, they will race here – to the family’s church – for a wedding.

“They said next year’s race will be on June 4th, and I looked at my daughter and said oh, well,” Hungerford says.

Heather Hungerford said “oh yes” to bringing her wedding party to the race.

“My mom means a lot to me. She’s more of a friend than just a mom,” Heather Hungerford says.

Mom and daughter have just a few hours in between walking for a cure … and then walking down the aisle. But Heather Hungerford says it’s a race she’s happy to make.

“I couldn’t imagine not having here on my wedding day, much less for the rest of my life,” Heather says.

“I was prepared to give this up, but I’m glad we didn’t,” her mother says.

Seventy-five percent of the net proceeds form the race stay in Dane county. Last year that came to about $250, 000 dollars.

Wednesday, May. 25, 2005

Race for cure at Relay for Life

Finding a cure begins at home, and next month, Highland County residents can take one more step toward finding a cure for cancer.

The Highland County Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, will be held from 6 p.m. Friday, June 24, until noon Saturday, June 25, at the Highland County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro.

The American Cancer Society is the largest non-profit source of funds for scientists studying cancer, providing a comprehensive array of cancer prevention and detection programs; 24-hour-a-day cancer information and education services; state advocacy and initiatives and scientific research.

Relay for Life is an 18-hour event in which locally sponsored teams walk or run on a track or set course in a noncompetitive race to raise money for cancer research.

Currently there are 30 teams signed up to walk in the Highland County relay.

The night begins with an opening victory lap by local cancer survivors, followed by a team lap. After the team lap, one member of each team will be on the course for the remainder of the relay.

Last year’s Relay for Life event exceeded the collection goal by raising $68,000 with more than 200 participants, according to Andrea Anderson, income development manager for the Southwest Ohio office of the American Cancer Society. This year, the collection goal is $80,000.

“We do it to raise money to support research, and also to support the people who have had cancer,” said Kim Sexton, a Relay for Life volunteer who is organizing a silent auction to raise money.

“This year, we are doing a silent auction, which is something new we’ve not done before,” said Sexton. “Different teams are joining in this year, obtaining items, and the items sold will go to their team credit for the amount they are raising.”

The auction will be set up in the Wharton building of the fairgrounds from 7-9 p.m. on the Friday evening of the walk.

“I am a nurse — I see these people every day and it is just a great feeling to be able to help to raise money for research,” said Sexton. “It makes me feel good about myself to be able to help.”

“Relay for Life is the signature event of the American Cancer Society,” said Anderson. “It is our main event to raise money for programs and services offered in Highland County.”

A portion of all of the money raised will go toward cancer research, Anderson said, but some of the funds will go back to Highland County in the form of support groups and services like “Road to Recovery,” a program that provides transportation for cancer patients to treatments and doctor appointments, and “Look Good … Feel Better,” a program that is geared toward dealing with the appearance of side effects of treatment, and teaches patients how to take care of their skins, use wigs and head wraps, and each patient receives $200 in free products.

“Around 9:30 a.m., we hold our luminary ceremony,” Anderson said.

Lights are placed around the track in memory of a person who has lost the battle with cancer, in celebration of someone who has survived, or to honor and remember all of them.

“There are games, contests and music playing throughout the night,” said Anderson. “It is a really fun event.”

Anderson said that by supporting Relay for Life, it is supporting finding a cure for cancer.

“Relay for Life is the main way that we raise the money that we need to fight cancer,” Anderson said. “The more community support we get, the closer we get to finding a cure.”

Sunday, May. 8, 2005

15th Annual Race For The Cure

More than 40,000 runners and walkers, a mix of breast cancer survivors and supporters, gathered this Mother’s Day on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to participate in the 15th Annual Philadelphia Race For The Cure. The official horn was sounded at 8:30 a.m. by CBS 3/UPN 57 President and General Manager Michael Colleran.

The winner, identified only as Dave, crossed the finish line with a run time of 15 minutes 30 seconds.

The first female, who is also the first survivor, crossed the finish line with a time of 23 minutes 8 seconds. Sandy Folser, 66, has been cancer-free for 11 years and has won this race on at least nine other occasions.

Meteorologist Carol Erickson was among the women who took to the stairs to take part in the survivor parade prior to the race. She stood alongside other survivors clad in pink.

With a portrait of her mother stapled to her racing shirt, one woman told why the race means so much to her: “My mother died from this disease and I’m a survivor. It’s so great to be here. It’s three years for me and I am grateful. Life is a gift.”

“It’s just the emotion, the camaraderie, the power you feel and I’m a survivor,” stated a two-and-a-half year survivor.

One woman said she felt something in the area above her breast and mistook it for a bug bite. An initial test came back negative but her doctor decided to remove the lump just to be safe. She credits him for saving her life and offered this advice: “Take every lump seriously. If you do get cancer listen to the doctor. Let them do the thinking for you…don’t be afraid to reach out.”

All for the cure

As in previous years, many of the estimated 25,000 people who took part Saturday in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Peoria toted cameras.

This year’s pictures, however, will include the men and children in the lives of the women who walked as survivors of breast cancer, in support of others who are battling the disease or in tribute to those who have succumbed to it.

For the first time in the 20-year history of the Peoria Komen event, men were invited to walk beside women or run in the men’s section of the race. Children had their own T-shirts designed by their peers and a special tent with activities designed to amuse them.

Mark Goldstein, a 17-year breast cancer survivor, has been waiting a long time to participate in the Peoria event, his 150th race to date. Goldstein, 77, of New Jersey said he travels throughout the country to races affiliated with the Susan G. Komen Foundation that have long been co-ed.

“It’s awesome that men can walk with women now in Peoria,” Goldstein said. “We share with them everything. In previous years we were spectators; now we’re participants.”

Barbara Loppnow’s husband, William, also is glad he no longer has to stand on the sidelines and show only moral support with his Three Miles of Men sign.

“I think it’s time men are involved,” he said. The couple was accompanied by Andrea, a daughter-in-law from Minneapolis.

This year the Three Miles of Men section for men who carry signs included women and was renamed Three Miles of Friends. The numbers of participants in that section of the event was about the same as last year’s, said Philip Lockwood, race co-chairman.

While Lockwood estimated that a total of 25,000 participated in Saturday’s combined race events, he cautioned that figure is preliminary.

“We won’t know the actual numbers until later” this week, he said. “We changed the way we do things to simplify the registration for the volunteers, so that means a lot of people who signed up toward the end of the week were not included” in the initial estimate.

The main race event was opened to men to raise even more money for breast cancer research. But Jordan Maricle, Lockwood’s co-chairwoman, said even those figures haven’t been tallied.

“We’ve been so busy we haven’t had time to do that yet,” she said, adding, “We ran out of T-shirts for the kids’ event.”

Children had their own youth-sized apple green T-shirts and a tent set up for face painting and crafts. Kids Konnected, a support group for children who have been affected by a family member with breast cancer, helped design the shirts and the logo on all the Kids for the Cure banners and promotional material.

“We didn’t expect this many kids,” said Kristen Kopinski, who coordinated that part of the race. “We had 20 kids in line for face painting every time we looked.”

The crafts, too, were popular with kids like Hannah Tomsovic, 6, who painted a bookmark shaped in the famous pink ribbon logo.

“This is for Mummy,” she said, referring to her mother, Diane Tomsovic, carrying 1-year-old Melissa. Hannah’s grandmother Joan Trotter also participated.

Race day itself was clearly a joyous event, despite the fact that the whole reason for the event is the devastation and the trauma left in the wake of the disease. With the weather cooperating, merchants set up tents and distributed all kinds of food, drinks and gimmicks to add to the carnival atmosphere at the Metro Centre, which is race day headquarters. On the main stage, a live band performed.

Families like the Paynes of Peoria, including eight men and 12 women, teased each other and bubbled with high spirits as they walked along Glen Avenue.

“We’re walking in memory of my mom, Sharon Payne, an eight-year survivor,” Shalonda Payne said as she strode beside daughters Nakira and Arnecia, who assisted 5-year-old Amorah.

“The guys are all glad to be here with us,” Shalonda said. “They’ve been waiting to join us for a long time.”

Nate Hurn said he and his stepfather, Dennis Brinker of Bartonville, have been involved in the event for a number of years and were glad to join his mother, Suzanne Brinker, who participates in honor of her mother.

“I think it’s phenomenal that men can join in,” Hurn said.

Perhaps no one knows just how phenomenal it really is to live each day unless he or she has survived cancer or another major disease. Just ask Penny Koch of Peoria. On Friday she celebrated her 59th birthday, but a more important milestone occurred on April 13, when she completed her first year free of cancer and its life-draining treatments since she was diagnosed with the disease.

“Chemotherapy leaves you completely drained and is pure hell,” Koch said. “I sympathize with anybody who’s ever been through it because all you can do is sit, and even to get up and stand up is quite a chore.”

Yet after 2 1/2 months of sitting, Koch went back to her passion, the tennis court, which brought her back from the brink of her own personal hell.

“With the chemo, I was so sick I could not move, but I also wanted to play tennis, and I didn’t want anyone to take my place on the tennis court, and I believe this helped me,” she said.

Doctors told her the increased activity apparently boosted her blood levels and expedited her recovery, she said. Koch is now assisting the Middle Illinois Tennis Association District USA League by coordinating league teams at The Clubs at River City. She also heads a USA League Tennis Women’s 6.5 Combo Doubles Team. Koch’s supporters include her husband, Dave, four sons and their wives and five grandchildren.

The area around the race arena reflected the personalities of the participants, many of whom formed teams to honor a co-worker or loved one. Some of them designed their own uniforms, sporting electric green shirts and fire engine-red shirts in addition to the events’ traditional pink.

All 75 members of the Higgins and Heller families from El Paso and Pontiac, for instance, wore leis, grass skirts or some kind of Hawaii-themed outfit to honor Cheryl Heller Higgins, who is still undergoing chemotherapy.

“I think it’s a good deal that we can all join in and support her,” said Adam Heller, 20, a nephew.

Thousands of Utahns race for breast cancer cure

Robynn and Haley Rasmussen had a lot of choices on what to do Saturday. The mother and daughter decided to spend the day working outside in the rain and cold.

The two, as well as Robynn’s niece and her daughter, joined hundreds of other volunteers to help out at the Komen Salt Lake City Race for the Cure, an annual event to raise money for breast cancer research and treatment.

“It’s fun to do,” Robynn said, with 12-year-old Haley nodding in agreement, as they registered participants.

The Rasmussens, with Missy and Molly Page, pitched in as members of the National Charity League, an organization that promotes community involvement and strong mother-daughter relationships through philanthropic work.

Others signed up to volunteer through other groups, at their workplace or individually.

The event – a Cure 5K wheelchair race, a 5K run/5K walk and a one-mile fun walk/run – is a nationwide fund-raising effort by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Runners and walkers pay an entry fee and the race is staged by volunteers who work for free.

The total raised will be known in a few weeks.

In Utah, a steady rain was no deterrent. Of the record 12,350 people who signed up for this year’s race, more than 11,000 showed up.

“People really came out and supported us,” one of the organizers, Rhonda Greenwood, said.

Among them were Pauline’s Angels, 41 friends and relatives of Pauline Ahlin, a breast cancer survivor.

Many of the group’s members, who all sported wings and halos, came from out of state to take part in the event.

“I am so pleased,” Ahlin, 77, said. “I hope we can work on the cure.”

Komen Race for the Cure for breast cancer brings out a crowd

Hundreds of mothers, daughters and sisters – some with hairless heads and most in pink hats and shirts – cried as they marched through an applauding crowd yesterday in the breast cancer survivors’ parade.

The poignant moment was a highlight of the Sixth Annual Komen NC Triad Race for the Cure.

“In celebration of … Mom!” said signs worn by many of the more than 10,000 walkers, runners and spectators who gathered shortly before 9 a.m. near the Old Salem Visitor Center for the milelong fun run and 5K.

It was such a huge mob that it took six minutes to reach the start line for those at the back of the pack as the race got under way.

Somewhere in that crowd and walking with a friend was 7-year-old Courtney Rhoades. The “in celebration of … Mom!” sign she wore, and her birthday, are reminders of how long her mother has been a survivor of breast cancer.

Courtney was born Jan. 7, 1998. Five weeks later, her mother, Lisa Rhoades, felt a breast lump that wouldn’t go away. She thought she had a clogged milk duct. When a surgeon went in to remove what he thought was a calcified deposit, he found cancer.

Rhoades had a lumpectomy, four rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation. She remembers her hair growing back by Halloween.

She pushed Courtney’s stroller on the cold, rainy morning that so many of the participants still recall of that first Komen NC Triad Race for the Cure on April 15, 2000. Rhoades said she felt OK by then, giving credit to good medical care and her daughter.

“I had the joy of having a child around, so that kept my spirits high,” she said.

The mother and daughter have been at every Komen NC Triad Race for the Cure since. They’re joined now by 3-year-old Ashley, born to Rhoades and husband Mark, since Rhoades’ cancer treatment.

Yesterday, mom worked at a survivors tent to offer food as her parents pushed Ashley in a stroller on the race course at Salem Academy and College. Courtney ventured out for her first race without her mom beside her.

“It helps if you have a buddy, just like all the survivors,” Rhoades said.

Someone who has been a buddy to many cancer survivors was at the tent. Sharon Murphy, the executive director of the Derrick L. Davis Forsyth Regional Cancer Center, shared a hug with a woman who lifted a cap briefly to show her hair growing back.

This time last year, Murphy was undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer.

She still walked.

“I felt a little tired but good,” she said. “I felt very blessed.”

Murphy is a board member of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s local affiliate She has been involved in the Race for the Cure since the beginning and has done regular breast self-exams.

She never felt a lump. She had no family history of breast cancer.

“It showed up on a mammogram,” Murphy said. “I really, really encourage mammograms.”

Promoting self-exams, mammograms and other regular medical screenings is part of the education effort of the Race for the Cure.

Another part of the event is to raise money for research, education, screening and treatment. The group had a goal of raising $425,000 this year. It will be several weeks before they know a total, as pledges continue to come in. Last year’s race raised more than $482,000. That brought the total raised since the race began to $2.3 million.

Sounding handheld airhorns to start yesterday’s race were the original organizers: Brooke Burr, Pam Versaggi, Cindy Christopher and Susan King.

“When the four of us started this about six years ago, we never dreamed it would grow to this level and we want to thank all of the volunteers and participants,” Burr told the crowd.

Five kilometers later, a man crossed the finish line in a sweat-drenched shirt with black marker ink running down the front, leaving his handwritten message looking as if it were stained with tears, but still legible.

“In memory of mom,” it said.

Saturday, May. 7, 2005

Families Race For The Cure

Family and loved ones were out in full force in support of their survivors Saturday morning at the Peoria Komen Race for the Cure.
One Peoria survivor has drawn strength from her family.

Before 7 a.m. on Sunday, not one or two but 20 members of Mable Pickett’s family showed up to the race, filled with energy and spirit. ”I came here to support my auntie so I want to walk with her,” says Mable’s niece.

Their support and love spilled over to Mable, a four-year breast cancer survivor.

”They’ve been my main support the whole time. Without them I wouldn’t have survived,” adds Mable. ”Without them or God I wouldn’t be here today.”

Hand in hand, squeezed inside a sea of bodies they walked with Mable.
Mable’s husband Moses says he loves her. ”I try to support her and let her know I’m definitely behind her,” says Moses.

Mable says she cannot imagine walking by herself without her family members. ”It feels good to look around see all the other survivors and see all the supporters they have,” Mable reiterates.

For three miles, the family found ways to enjoy their time together.But Mable says her sister’s presence is the most precious to her.

Earnestine Taylor, Mable’s Sister, came to Peoria from Memphis, Tennessee to walk. ”Me and my sister are very close. When this happened to her, it was devastating to me and I tried to encourage her in any way I could,” says Earnestine.

Moses says her actions are another way to show unity. ”No matter what the situation is, it is important to bring strength into the family,” adds Moses.

Though her family comprises only a fraction of everyone at the race, Mable says seeing their faces has made her whole.

”I’m not alone,” says Mable. Her family echoes, ”She’ll never be alone, we’ll always be here with her.’

Wednesday, Mar. 9, 2005

Preps Begin For Komen’s ‘Race For The Cure’

Before thousands of runners lace up their shoes for the annual “Komen Sacramento Race for the Cure,” organizers are preparing for the big event.

The race is a project of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The event doesn’t happen until May, but preparations are well under way, including the kick-off event Tuesday night.

It is the ninth year for the “Race for the Cure,” which starts Saturday May 8 at Cal Expo in Sacramento.

Monday, Jan. 24, 2005

Race for Cure awards organizers to help say thanks

With more than 17,000 people expected to walk or run Saturday morning in the 2005 Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Race for the Cure, the South Florida affiliate will have a lot of people to thank.

After all, area walkers and sponsors raise big money to support the research and programs of the Komen Foundation. Last year’s local race, the 13th annual event, raised $790,000, 75 percent of which was donated to local groups for breast cancer education, low- or no-cost mammograms, and treatment.

Two Palm Beach women, Lynn Ciklin and Margaret Rodbell, play a major role in thanking race participants. Ciklin is chairwoman and Rodbell is co-chairwoman of the affiliate’s awards committee. In addition to awards for top race finishers, race organizers give team awards and honor breast cancer survivors.

Ciklin and Rodbell make sure medals arrive in time to be placed around the necks of breast cancer survivors as they cross the finish line on Flagler Drive in downtown West Palm Beach. Volunteers with awards sponsor J.P. Morgan will hand out about 1,100 survivor medals this year.

The women also help coordinate the recognition ceremony for survivors at the Meyer Amphitheatre.

Though they have been race volunteers for quite a while — Ciklin since its inception 14 years ago and Rodbell for five years — the event continues to provoke powerful emotions for them.

“After the awards, they have every single survivor come up on stage,” Rodbell said. “And you sit there and it’s a sea of pink and you can just see for as long as you can see. You can just see this line of women in their pink T-shirts all coming up on this stage. It’s amazing.”

Ciklin was successfully treated for breast cancer more than 20 years ago. Her mother, Faye Eissey of North Palm Beach, also is a breast-cancer survivor.

Rodbell’s mother, Delores Costello of Scottsdale, Ariz., survived breast cancer, too.

In recent weeks, the two have learned that two friends, women in their 30s, have been diagnosed with breast cancer. It is for these women, and for women who cannot afford to pay for diagnostic screening, that Ciklin and Rodbell said they continue supporting the Race for the Cure.

Ciklin said the Komen Foundation’s Web site, www.komen.org, is a valuable resource. She said research funded by the Komen Foundation, founded by Palm Beacher Nancy Brinker, has helped advance the treatment of breast cancer. The foundation has increased women’s awareness of the disease, which has led to life-saving early detection, Ciklin said.

“Those are all of the good things that they do. They do a ton of good things for women and men, too,” she said.

Monday, Oct. 4, 2004

Run for the Cure Raises $19.2 Million

19.2 million dollars was raised in the annual Run for the Cure for breast cancer research across Canada.

170-thousand Canadians took part in the 40 events across the country.

On Parliament Hill, 10-thousand people helped raise 820-thousand dollars.

One in nine Canadian women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime, and about 5,000 die each year of the disease.

Sunday, Oct. 3, 2004

12,000 Run for the Cure

People ran, they walked, and some may even have felt like crawling by the end, but 12,000 participants crossed the finish line at the CIBC Run for the Cure Sunday.

The annual run raised $1.3 million for breast cancer research, treatment and awareness, exceeding last year’s record-breaking total of $1.1 million.

Alicia Lozynsky had a special reason for running. Her shirt proudly displayed her message with “I’m running for . . . my mommy,” scrawled on the front.Lozynsky’s mother, Joanne, will undergo her third round of chemotherapy today.

The brave mother, who has lost her hair during her battle with the disease, ran side by side with her daughter for five kilometres in the event.

“Something like (breast cancer) can make you feel so alone,” Joanne Lozynksy said after completing the run.

“But events like this show you that you’re really not. It’s fabulous to see so many people here.”

Wearing florescent pink fish-net tights and bright pink wigs, teachers from St. Patrick Burns Junior High School brought 150 students to run.

They raised a total of $18,492 combined by hosting dances, selling pink soda pop and holding a school-wide pink nail polish day.

Friday, Oct. 1, 2004

‘Race for the Cure’ raises millions for breast cancer

Event also funnels thousands to Planned Parenthood.

In some ways, it’s hard to say no to the Susan B. Komen Foundation. The organization, which has dozens of affiliates across the country that hold well-known “Race for the Cure” fund-raisers, has raised more money for breast cancer research than any other private organization in the country.

The nonprofit charity was founded in 1982 by Nancy Brinker, who made a promise to her dying sister, Susan B. Komen, that she would do everything she could to fight breast cancer. Komen died of the disease at age 36. Since then, the Komen Foundation has raised more than $240 million to fight a disease that is expected to take the lives of nearly 40,000 women this year alone.

And yet, last year the Komen Foundation gave nearly a half million dollars in grant money to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. For many pro-lifers, that makes supporting both the pro-life movement and the Komen Foundation problematic.

Not every local Komen Foundation chapter gives grant money to Planned Parenthood. Each affiliate decides to which groups in the community it will award Race for the Cure funds for breast cancer research and prevention. But according to the Komen Foundation’s national office, 21 affiliates across the country awarded a total of more than $475,000 to Planned Parenthood clinics in just last year.

The Komen Foundation is quick to point out that the grant money awarded to any organization, including Planned Parenthood, may only be used for breast cancer programs.

“All community grants are restricted to provide vital breast health education, screening and treatment services for underserved women,” the Komen Foundation said in a statement.

But Barbara Holt, director of the pro-life North Carolina Right to Life, said it doesn’t matter if the Komen dollars that are given to Planned Parenthood are used only for breast cancer programs.

“That just frees up money for other things,” she said.

“Things like promoting abortions, paying for the facilities where abortions take place, and paying the salaries of those who facilitate abortions,” Holt said.

That’s something that the thousands of runners in “Race for the Cure” fund-raisers across the country should consider, Holt said—especially pro-lifers, who she said should be “loathed to give money to the Komen Foundation if they think Planned Parenthood could get any of those dollars.”

Monday, Sep. 27, 2004

Staying power

‘Survive and thrive’ attitude helps moms battle breast cancer.

Breast cancer struck Tiffany Pagone when she was 34 and her children were 4, 7 and 8. It hit Cathy Sipple when she was 43 and her sons were 4 and 6. Sharon Ryan-Benson was 45, and her daughter was 3.

Of the approximately 210,000 American women diagnosed with breast cancer each year, more than 20 percent get it before they turn 50, during their prime mothering years.

Kids still need care when Mom is going through chemotherapy, however. So the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which will take place Sunday in Denver, has special meaning for the younger survivors of breast cancer.

“The first time I participated in the race was right after I was diagnosed. I went looking for other young survivors like me, and for older women who had survived getting breast cancer when they were younger.
When I saw that sea of pink hats, I realized that this diagnosis wasn’t a death sentence. It gave me hope that I would survive and thrive as a person and just keep living my life.”
Ryan-Benson, now 54

All three women said they can’t imagine how they would have managed without a support system that included family, friends, employers, neighbors, fellow congregants and co-workers.

Sipple, a single mother, has been on leave from her job as an occupational therapist at Craig Hospital since she was diagnosed with breast cancer in January. Her co-workers pooled their sick time and donated thousands of dollars worth of hours to support her family since she has been off work.

“I was used to caring for other people, both as a mom and in my job,” said Sipple, who plans to return to work Oct. 4. “Having to ask for help was difficult. I never wanted to be the person who was on the receiving end. Now I only hope I get a chance to repay all the amazing emotional and spiritual support I have received.”

While she was in chemotherapy, Ryan-Benson’s in-laws stayed with her, her husband and their then- preschooler Jessie, who is now 12.

“There are days during chemo when you can’t function,” Ryan-Benson said. “I couldn’t have had a better support system. Having cancer can show you how wonderful people can be.”

Pagone, who like Sipple was diagnosed in January, finished her chemotherapy Friday. She plans to return to her job as a credit analyst for Diner’s Club for two weeks during October, then she’ll take off the rest of the year while she undergoes radiation treatment.

Her husband, a captain in the Army National Guard, was activated in March and has been in Afghanistan since May.

Most people in her situation would feel overwhelmed. But Pagone says she, too, has had wonderful support, particularly from her ex-husband, who frequently cares both for his daughters, Roxanne Freeman, 9, and Zoe Freeman, 7, and for Pagone’s son from her current marriage, Evan Pagone, 5. Her only complaint is that chemotherapy has made it harder to keep up with them.

Nevertheless, she has a nearly flawless attendance record as a volunteer crossing guard at her daughters’ school, Mount Carbon Elementary in Littleton.

She says she appreciates the illness for slowing her down so she can spend more time with her children. One day last week, she was caring for three neighbor children in addition to Evan, while the girls were in school.

“It has been great having so much time with the kids,” she said. “We’ve gone skiing, we swim, we bike a little – though not as much as I’d like because the chemo is hard on your heart. We wrestle. We play. It’s like they lend me their energy.

“The kids are so much fun. They make you forget.”

Pagone said she and her husband told the children as much about the breast cancer as they thought they could handle.

“We didn’t want to say cancer or lump because they’ve heard that people die of cancer. Their ignorance lasted about two seconds, then they put two and two together,” she said. “We thought the news would shake their world apart, but they can handle so much more than I ever gave them credit for. They took it all in stride.”

Sipple also took the direct approach when she talked to Kendrick, now 7, and Kordell, now 5.

“I told them upfront what was going on,” Sipple said. “My older son was worried because a boy at school was going through treatment for brain cancer. I had to explain that there are lots of different kinds of cancer.” She told them her prognosis was good.

Two of Pagone’s three children took her explanations at face value, but she, too, has had to reassure a worried child.

“I explained the double mastectomy by saying that before the surgery I felt like I had bugs – all gross,” she said. “And now I feel all clean and fresh and ready to feel better. Before chemo, I had the kids take turns cutting my long hair and shaving my head. Then we donated the hair to Locks of Love, which uses it to make wigs for children with cancer.

“Evan and Roxanne accepted all that, but Zoe (her 7-year-old) wasn’t so sure,” Pagone said. “One day she just broke down at school. And her teacher did exactly the right thing. She took her aside and told her she needed to get a Sharpie pen, wait until I was asleep and sneak into my bedroom and draw little swirlies all over my head.

“From then on, we could laugh,” she said. “Eventually she drew some eyes on the back of my head. Now my hair is growing back, and we’re over the bridge.”

Ryan-Benson’s original diagnosis was nine years ago, but she says breast cancer changes the way a mother thinks for the rest of her life.

“We live in a busy world, and maybe I wouldn’t have paid as much attention to all the little ups and downs if it weren’t for breast cancer. It made all of us as a family appreciate every day that we have together. We try not to waste our time. And we realize the difference between things that are important and things that aren’t.”
Ryan-Benson

Inside Good News Blog