KeepHealthCare.ORG – Hundreds Come Together to battle cancer, celebrate survivors | Recreation
DECATUR — Ellen Burris and her family members are regular participants in the annual Come Together race.
“My reason is because I have friends who are (cancer) survivors,” she said. “It is very important to me.”
The family tries to stick together during the race.
“They keep up with me,” Burris, 54, said. “They try.”
Burris was among an estimated 1,000 runners and walkers taking part in this year’s Come Together Be Empowered 5K walk/run Saturday morning at Fairview Park. The event is a fundraiser for local ovarian, breast and cervical cancer programs.
Saturday’s event was the eighth year for the Come Together event. However, the name was changed slightly this year from Come Together Let’s Walk to Come Together Be Empowered. According to event coordinator Brenda Fleming, the previous title confused some. “Lots of people thought we just walked,” she said.
The roots of the local event date back to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure event and its focus on breast cancer that came to Decatur more than 20 years ago. The national Komen foundation restructured in 2010, allowing local organizers the opportunity to form their own fundraiser.
“This event was created,” said Tia Peete, co-chair. “Then we brought in ovarian and cervical cancers. We wanted to make them a part of our program and raise funds for them as well.”
The proceeds from Come Together go toward cancer programs, support groups and initiatives.
As an introduction to this year’s race, cancer survivors were invited to the stage. They were presented with a gift bag as they approached and honored with special music.
Sherry Ross, 65, is a double-cancer survivor. “I had breast cancer in 2011,” she said. “And cancer of the uterus in 2013.”
Debbie Beckmeier, 56, is a survivor of both cancers as well.
“We had our endometrial (uterine) surgeries about a week a part,” she said. “We are in a breast cancer support group that meets about once a month.”
Both ladies are doing well and wanted to be a part of the race.
“I was determined I was going to do this,” Ross said. “My kids warned me it was going to be hot, but I came and I’m glad I did.”
According to Beckmeier, the event is important to the survivors.
“A lot of people think cancer is the end,” she said. “People are surviving way past five years.”
Ross was happy to meet other survivors before and after the race. “Considering what we went through,” she said. “It is still enjoyable to sit and talk with your friends.”
A Come Together party started before the race began.
As the racers, survivors and families approached, music was playing. They could get their pictures taken to commemorate the event. Cheerleaders from Eisenhower, MacArthur and Maroa-Forsyth high schools cheered them on. And comfort dogs were waiting to be petted.
The course was littered with water stops, cooling stations and golf carts to offer relief from the high humidity and temperatures.
Both Decatur hospitals were present to provide education and support.
Decatur Memorial Hospital discussed the importance of reconstruction after breast cancer surgery and other post-surgery topics.
“We have resources for those that maybe don’t have the funds to get a mammogram,” said Pam McMillen, breast center patient navigator with DMH.
The hospital staff displayed a silicone breast model with lumps of various sizes.
“It gives people an idea of what you have to do to feel them,” McMillen said. “You can’t just grab it. You have to use the pads of your fingers and different pressure.”
HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital staff provided information on women’s health as well. Staff could also be seen on the running path in honor of co-workers who have suffered from the disease.
“Many of our family members and colleagues have been touched by cancer,” said Joan M. Coffman, St. Mary’s CEO.
Burris’s sister, Janice McKinney, 60, has been bringing her family to this race since it was the Komen race. She enjoys the Come Together race because of the community involvement, as well as the support for cancer research, since the disease runs in the family.
“But this is my hobby, walking,” she said. “I love supporting things like this.”
Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR