Can­cer sur­vivors, fam­ily and friends join to LIVE­STRONG

The Ambler Gazette - - POLICEREPORTS - By Linda Stein

Rain clouds gave way to sun­shine as the run­ners at the Live­STRONG Chal­lenge Philly hit the pave­ment last Satur­day morn­ing in Whit­pain.

Lauren Costello, 29, a mem­ber of Team Cofco, has been par­tic­i­pat­ing in the event for seven years in honor of her un­cle, who had Hodgkin’s Lym­phoma. The North Wales res­i­dent had just com­pleted the 5K run/walk hosted by Mont­gomery County Community Col­lege with her friend, Kris­ten Mark­ert, 35, of Jef­fer­son­ville.

“It’s fun and fam­ily and friends,” said Mark­ert. “We all get to­gether.” She’s par­tic­i­pated for four years. “It’s a great race. It’s a lot of fun to do. There’s so much en­ergy.” It of­ten rains for the event but, she added, “The sun comes out.”

The an­nual event raised $2 mil­lion this year, said Rae Baz­zarre, a spokes­woman for Live­STRONG, a char­ity founded by cy­clist Lance Arm­strong, him­self a can­cer sur­vivor. There were 4,300 par­tic­i­pants in the week­end event, which in­cluded a 5K and 10K run Satur­day and a 10- to 100-mile bike ride Sun­day. Some 2,300 did the run/ walk and 2,300 signed up to cy­cle, she said. Some peo­ple par­tic­i­pated in both.

One of those do­ing both legs of the chal­lenge was Ryan Lubas, 27, of Ex­eter, who was in­volved be­cause of his mother, Kathy Lubas, a breast can­cer sur­vivor.

“I bike a lot and play bas­ket­ball,” said Lubas. His brother, Jeff Lubas, 32, of Mor­ton, did the 10K run. His Great Dane, Dun­can, who did not run, was on hand to greet him at the end of the race.

“I am amaz­ingly proud of them,” said Kathy Lubas, also of Ex­eter, of her sons. She was di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer five years ago. “It’s over­whelm­ing, the turnout. There’s not one time that I come down that I don’t shed tears.”

“I’m a sur­vivor for 13 years,” said Amy Smith, 54, of New Hol­land, who was with her 15-mem­ber team, the “Mal­ibu Mob.” The team raised $4,000, and she raised $1,300 per­son­ally in honor of her 13 years as a sur­vivor.

“I just found out my sis­ter-in-law got di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer,” she added. That gave her an­other rea­son to take part.

“We just lost our mom to breast can­cer May 8,” said Diana Chase, 30, of Wil­low Grove. “I ran this year in honor of her. She fought hard.” Her team T-shirt read: Run­ning to save the “girls.” And that team raised $2,300.

“We used Face­book [to get do­na­tions and mem­bers],” Chase said. “An­other team mem­ber just lost his mom to breast can­cer. It hits a lot of us close to home.”

“We did a team in honor of my hus­band’s aunt, Margie Pfani, who died of can­cer in 2010,” said Colleen Hem­berger, 29, of Philadel­phia.

Christina

Hagerty,

of

North Wales, who was on the team, said Margie Pi­fani’s son, Nick, put the team to­gether.

“It’s awe­some,” she said, about the event.

“It was mo­ti­vat­ing to see so many peo­ple,” said Hem­berger. Her hus­band, Matt Hem­berger, said their team had 25 to 30 peo­ple from 2 to 65 in the run.

“This is my first Live­STRONG Chal­lenge,” he said. “It’s good.” And it’s also served as a kind of fam­ily re­union, he said.

“My friend Rachel [Ram­say] re­cently passed away,” said Tosha Rus­sock, 29, of Bal­ti­more, who had formed a team in Ram­say’s honor. Ram­say, 29, had worked as a pub­lic de­fender in Philadel­phia, said Rus­sock, so that 40-mem­ber team’s T-shirt showed a small scale of jus­tice logo. They raised about $7,000 for Live­STRONG and the pro­ceeds from their T-shirts went to start a schol­ar­ship in Ram­say’s honor.

Donte Neal, 31, came to the event from Mick­el­ton, N.J., be­cause his friend, Jairus Lewis, of San Jose, Calif., is un­der­go­ing treat­ment for can­cer.

“He’s bat­tling Stage 4,” said Neal, whose team raised $7,000.

Katie Maran­sky, 15, of Blue Bell, also ran the 5K Satur­day.

“My dad’s best friend [Leo Roselli] lost his life to can­cer and we have a team [for] him.”

Quite a few fam­i­lies with young chil­dren and ba­bies in strollers were on hand.

Ellon Dougan, of Nor­folk, Va., brought her daugh­ter, Flannery, to the event in a stroller. Her hus­band, Brian Dougan, 37, died in May the day be­fore Flannery was born. Be­fore his death, Brian Dougan had taken part in the Live­STRONG events, so his widow said she promised him be­fore he died that she would continue.

Jodi Frankel, 38, of Up­per Dublin, who lost her hus­band to a rare form of thy­roid can­cer in March, was with the 50-mem­ber team, the “Fight­ing Frankels.”

“This is our fourth year and I told him we were still do­ing it in honor of him,” Frankel said. “It feels amaz­ing that I have such a won­der­ful group of fam­ily and friends to sup­port us,” she said. Her chil­dren, a 10-year-old son and a 6-year-old daugh­ter, also took part.

As they neared the fin­ish line, an­nounc­ers and mu­sic cheered them on and some spec­ta­tors rang cow­bells. The sur­vivors re­ceived a yel­low rose, and yel­low ban­ners with the word “hope” lined the area.

Baz­zarre said that this is Live­STRONG’s seventh year in Philadel­phia. The char­ity helps peo­ple with can­cer, their fam­i­lies and their care­givers, she said. The or­ga­ni­za­tion pro­vides pa­tient ad­vo­cacy and helps peo­ple nav­i­gate the health sys­tem to get ser­vices. For ex­am­ple, if peo­ple are unin­sured, they con­nect them with pro­grams or if they can’t pay their un­cov­ered med­i­cal bills, they pro­vide help. They also help peo­ple whose treat­ments will pre­vent them from hav­ing chil­dren with fer­til­ity ser­vices.

In ad­di­tion, many can­cer pa­tients and sur­vivors also bat­tle de­pres­sion and other emo­tional chal­lenges, so Live­STRONG helps with those is­sues, as well. The char­ity also part­ners with YMCA branches to help sur­vivors get their strength back, she said, not­ing with the help of spon­sors, in­clud­ing Ra­dioShack and Nike, “100 per­cent of the pro­ceeds go to­ward help­ing im­prove lives.”

Photo by CHRIS­TINE RECKNER

Par­tic­i­pants of the Live­STRONG Chal­lenge be­gin the 5K walk/run held at Mont­gomery County Community Col­lege Aug. 18.

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