Brain Power 5K run­ners make strides to de­feat brain cancer

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Leslee Bassman

Three years ago, Austin marathoner Iram Leon was the first to cross the fin­ish line at Cedar Park’s Brain Power 5K, a Cen­tral Texas race that raises funds to sup­port brain tu­mor re­search and aid the sur­vivors of the dis­ease. That year, West­lake res­i­dent Min­erva Martinez fin­ished last.

This month, the two brain cancer sur­vivors fin­ished the race to­gether.

Leon, an ac­claimed run­ner, vol­un­teered to push Martinez in an adult stroller so she could com­plete the race de­spite her fail­ing mo­bil­ity, a byprod­uct of the brain tu­mors that have prompted five surg­eries since her De­cem­ber 2013 di­ag­no­sis.

“I told (Martinez) we were go­ing to fly, and we did,” Leon said. “We pushed it.”

How­ever, he ad­vised Martinez that she was go­ing to fin­ish the race by walk­ing over the fin­ish line.

“We stopped right within the last fade­away, and we walked,” Leon said. “She did it all on her own at the very end. It took her a lot of ef­fort to get across.”

Leon’s brain cancer di­ag­no­sis came in 2011, just a few months be­fore the first Cen­tral Texas Brain Power event. Leon not only won the first com­pe­ti­tion but was awarded a medal for rais­ing the most funds for its cause.

“I’ve come back every year,” Leon said of the Brain Power event. “It’s a very sig­nif­i­cant race to me.”

Martinez and Leon met three years ago at the race, as the marathoner cheered on the West­lake mom who walked the event, even­tu­ally cross­ing the fin­ish line. She had en­dured her first surgery the prior year.

“I re­mem­bered when (Martinez) did the en­tire thing by her­self,” Leon said at the race. “So that fin­ish line was hers then, and it was hers to­day.”

A fam­ily af­fair

Although Mi­ami res­i­dent Caro­line Christo­pher said she had not planned to run the Cedar Park race, the day turned out to be a fam­ily af­fair when she joined about 70 other Team Alas­tair par­tic­i­pants to sup­port the group’s name­sake, West­lake sur­vivor Alas­tair Kirkpatrick. Christo­pher, a col­lege stu­dent, was evac­u­ated due to Hur­ri­cane Irma and landed in Austin with her mother, El­iz­a­beth Christo­pher, Kirkpatrick’s sis­ter-in-law.

“(Caro­line) was evac­u­ated, but the sil­ver lin­ing is that she got to be here to honor (Kirkpatrick) and run for him,” El­iz­a­beth Christo­pher said. “We had eight fam­ily mem­bers fly in (to the race) from dif­fer­ent parts of the county.”

She said Kirkpatrick was di­ag­nosed with brain cancer 27 months ago.

“It was June of 2015 that (Kirkpatrick) woke up with a bad headache and lost vi­sion,” said El­iz­a­beth, a Chicago res­i­dent do­ing her third Brain Power 5K. “He went into the hos­pi­tal, and (the doc­tors) were un­clear what it was. About five days later, they con­firmed it was glioblas­toma.

“(Kirkpatrick) set his goals, and he wanted to get to June of 2017. He did and sur­passed that.” She said her rel­a­tive had “al­ways been a run­ner, and he has al­ways had the fastest time.”

“The first (Brain Power 5K) we did two years ago; (Kirkpatrick) had just had surgery, and he ran the last part of the (race) with me,” El­iz­a­beth said.


Brain cancer sur­vivors Min­erva Martinez (left) and Iram Leon pre­pare for the Brain Power 5K on Sept. 10.

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