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Hundreds 'Beat The Odds' in race against breast and prostate cancer

Posted: August 27, 2011 - 10:43pm
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  Klas Stolpe
Klas Stolpe

Only one cause can draw the Bartlett Boob Squad, the Tsunami youth soccer team and more than 350 Juneauites onto the rainy stretches of the Kaxdigoowu Heen Dei (Mendenhall river trail) system behind Riverbend Elementary School and Thunder Mountain High School. Saturday’s 20th Annual Beat The Odds 5K run/ 2-mile walk — A Woman’s Race Against Breast Cancer and the Men’s Prostate Cancer 5K run was the event.

“We have three monographers, a radiologist, and various other staff participating,” Bartlett Regional monographer Sabrina Bullard said. Bullard was the originator of the team name of Bartlett Boob Squad, a tee shirt worn by one participating group of runners. “I am always trying to make mammography fun and always doing goofy things just to have fun with a serious situation.”

Bullard emphasized that women should get a mammogram and that support for those with breast cancer, or any cancer, and their families is important.

“I encourage patients to come in for their health,” Bullard said. “Mammography can be fun. I promise.”

Middle school runner Ryan Moritz, who participated with his Tsunami soccer teammates to get in shape for an upcoming race from Skagway to Whitehorse, stated it wasn’t just to get fit for the season.

“We did it for prostate cancer and breast cancer,” Moritz said. “The end of this race was hard, but this was a good cause.”

Stephen and Jaime Fields waked with young daughter Gabrielle in honor of Gabrielle’s grandmother, Phyllis Snively of Hoonah.

“Phyllis was recently diagnosed with cancer and has a surgery scheduled in September,” Stephen said. “Our daughter is maybe too young to understand what is happening but we wanted to participate in the walk.”

Local Juneau doctor Matt Jones ran and stated it was just fun to do and to bring awareness to the public.

“And encourage people to be in shape,” Jones said. “Being in shape impacts your health in so many ways.”

Ken and Jim Hoff ran for brother Donnie Hoff and wore Donnie Hoff badges.

“He is fighting cancer in Tennessee,” Ken Hoff said. Hoff’s wife Sandra Woods walked in the women’s portion of the event.

Their mother, Tillie Hoff of Ketchikan, is a survivor of breast cancer since 1982.

“I ran slow,” Jim Hoff said. “I figured the slower you go the more chance you have to beat cancer, by awareness and speaking out.”

The Hoffs stated that men should get physicals every year, get checked out often, practice good health and prevention and keep positive attitudes.

“Cancer runs in our family,” Jim Hoff said. “I get PSA tests every six months. It only costs a little bit of money. It is the not knowing that hurts you.”

Cathy Bressette came up with the Beat The Odds idea 20 years ago after being diagnosed with breast cancer and seeing similar events in other states. It was passed on to Glacier Valley Rotary after eight years as it grew in size, and they in turn passed it on to Cancer Connection, which has run the event the past six years.

Bressette presented retired dentist Mike McKirll, the race organizer for 20 years, with a much-applauded thank you in front of the mass of entrants before the women’s race.

“The event is way bigger than just the race,” said McKirll, wearing the original race tee from 1992. “It supports the cause, and I am in the running community and enjoy coming out to the races. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer 13 years ago so I have that connection to the events as well. Things are okay and I am still running. My advice is to definitely, after age 40, have a PSA and get physical exams.”

Bressette ran the event for six years before turning it over to the Rotary Club.

“It has just been an amazing organization,” Bressette said. “And this has been for such a great and needed cause.”

Cancer survivor Beth Weigel, diagnosed with a form of cancer in May 2001 with a recurrence in 2005, rallied the throng of participants while introducing key speakers.

In a past interview Weigel stated, “Since I did not have health insurance when I was diagnosed with my recurrence, I had three choices — to become poor, to take on more debt than I would ever be able to repay or to die. I chose to become poor and rely upon the generosity of my friends and family to help me as well as the safety net we call public assistance. I learned that not only does it take a community to save a life but that a resource is a resource is a resource and that money is just a more flexible one.”

Twins Debbie Chalmers and Kathy Brown spoke to the participants before the run. Debbie was diagnosed with cancer in 2004, Kathy last summer. The two brought a poster of Sherrie Louise Radar, a friend from Hoonah who died of cancer on July 1.

“We are happy to be here,” Debbie said. “We are thrilled to be survivors.”

Debbie said she went from denial to fear after initial diagnosis and then just plowed forward on a journey of finding the right doctors and treatment, and were there for each other.

A surprise came last summer when Kathy was diagnosed with the same tumor.

“It was a twin thing all over again,” Debbie said. “Been there done that. We can do this and get through this.”

Kathy stated she was familiar with Cancer Connection and “I was thrilled to join their group. It is interesting how different it is after you have been a support to somebody who has been through it. I did not have the fear when I was diagnosed that I had when Debbie was. There are so many people we are with today and remembering today, all of you have connections to cancer in so many ways and it is the connection that makes this such a rich experience and keeps us going and filled with such hope and strength.”

The multi-sponsored Beat The Odds run is Cancer Connection’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Cancer Connection raised $20,000 last year in the event. The money is used to help patients with travel expenses for treatment. They recently rented a fully furnished apartment near Swedish and Virginia Mason Hospitals for use by patients who need 4 – 6 weeks of treatment in Seattle.

“We do ask for $75 per night,” Cancer Connection treasurer Ruth Johnson said. “For stays longer than two weeks we ask for $50. We do fundraise enough where we can subsidize for those in financial hardships. It is booked constantly, it is a really nice thing.”

Cancer Connection also offers support groups, educational health forums, and informational workshops.

When Keith L. Harvey raced his son Keith A. to the finish line of the race, he pointed skyward.

“I am a Christian,” Harvey said. “Everything I do is for him. This is a great cause. I am 49 and coming up to that point where I am going to think about these issues, fortunately I don’t have any prostate cancer in my family. I give God the glory for allowing us to do this race for him.”

• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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