Sweet 16: Komen Chattanooga's Race for the Cure celebrates milestone todayView 8 Photos
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› What: Komen Chattanooga Race for the Cure
› Where: McKenzie Arena, 720 E. Fourth St.
› When: 11 a.m today gates open, 2 p.m race. Event registration at the arena today from 11 a.m.-1:45 p.m.
› Registration fee: $45 for timed 5K, $35 for untimed 5K or mile walk, $25 children
› Information: chattanooga.info-komen.org
By The Numbers
16: Number of years Race for the Cure has been held
75: Percentage of net income from race that stays in this community
300: Expected number of breast cancer survivors in today’s race
97,500: Dollars raised in 2014 Komen Chattanooga Race for the Cure
100,000: Dollar goal for today’s race
Source: Komen Chattanooga affiliate
“I was very quiet about my cancer until after my second diagnosis. I didn’t want to bring attention to myself because of breast cancer. It was Komen that helped me see that sharing my experience with others can be beneficial.”
— Lynn Hutchison, survivor, Komen Ambassador, Hakuna My Tatas team captain
“It’s not just a race now. Ever since my friend passed away at age 20 from breast cancer I do everything I can to raise funds.”
— Lance Edgar, 10th consecutive year in Race for the Cure, with Sarah Burns at the 2014 Race for the Cure
“A mammogram saved my life. I had skipped it the year before, but I never skip it anymore.”
— Becky Wheeler, survivor who has participated in all 16 Chattanooga races
“I do this in memory of my mom. She was very dedicated about the importance of women getting checked for breast cancer. I keep doing the race because I am truly hoping a cure is found in my lifetime.”
— Shenikia Sturnes, left, Mount Canaan Walking Eagles captain, with her sister, Robin Sturnes.
Lynn Hutchison was 31 years old and six months pregnant when she got her first breast cancer diagnosis.
"My son was 6 at the time and we attended a fall carnival at his school that afternoon," says the Dalton, Ga., accountant. "I looked around at everyone and felt a little like my world had stopped while everything was normal for those around me."
Now 44, having beaten a recurrence in 2011 and survived a total of 14 chemotherapy and 70 radiation treatments between the two cancer bouts, she is an official ambassador for the Chattanooga affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, sharing her breast cancer journey to encourage newly diagnosed patients and fundraising to help put an end to the disease.
She also is one of thousands of men, women and children expected to converge on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga today to participate in the 16th annual Komen Chattanooga Race for the Cure.
Anita Stewart, operations manager for the Chattanooga affiliate of Susan G. Komen, was hesitant to even project a number of participants expected, saying the Komen office has received an average of 200 new entries each day this past week in addition to those who pre-registered online.
And it's not too late to sign up, she says. The arena's gates will open at 11 a.m today and registrations will be accepted until 1:45 p.m. before the race steps off at 2 p.m.
For the second year, Hutchison and her pals have entered as team Hakuna My Tatas. The Reconstruction Crew, The Triple Ds, Deb's Dashing Divas and Dudes, Melissa's Minions, Kappas for a Cure and Team Mimosa are all among the top fundraising teams whose humorous names add to the celebratory atmosphere of the event.
But behind the levity are walkers' inspiring survivor stories or memories of loved ones taken too soon by the disease — and a shared motivation to feel they are helping find a cure to prevent further loss of lives.
Tracy Freund, her mother, daughter and two friends — aka The ChemoSabes — are traveling from Bluefield, W.Va., for the race.
"My sister, Chris Presley, was the inaugural race director for the Chattanooga Race for the Cure," explains Freund. "She did everything in preparation for that race, then passed away three weeks before the race and didn't get to see it take place. She was 34 when she was diagnosed and she passed away at age 39 in 2000."
Freund says the family participated in the 10th anniversary race and are returning to town for today's Sweet 16 race milestone.
"The mother of my daughter's roommate, Carol Young, was diagnosed in July. They live in Cleveland, Tenn. We are coming back to be in this race in honor of Carol Young and in memory of my sister," says Freund.
Dr. Susan Raschal, a breast cancer survivor, is today's honorary race chair. A team from Covenant Allergy and Asthma Care, where she is the physician, is making its debut in the Komen race in her honor. Team captain Barbara Marshall, marketing and referral development associate for Covenant Allergy and Komen Chattanooga's board president, has gathered a team of nearly 50 people who have a goal of raising $5,000.
"We have four other survivors on our team besides Dr. Raschal," says Marshall. "I know many ladies who have battled breast cancer and are doing well, are in the middle of a battle or have lost their battles. I'm walking for them.
"My background was in medical imaging for 38 years. It's emotional when you see 20-year-olds who are diagnosed. Breast cancer doesn't know age or gender. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime."
Lance Edgar, a May graduate of UTC now employed by Regions Bank, is making his 10th showing in a Komen walk. Edgar says he first joined a team just because his friends did, but then the importance of the Komen mission struck home.
"A good friend of mine in Charlotte, N.C., passed away from breast cancer at age 20. It's not just a race now. Ever since she passed away I do everything I can to raise funds. When I worked at Bi-Lo, the company offered a chance to donate 1 percent of my income to charity. I worked there 2 1/2 years and continued to donate. Sometimes it doesn't hit home until it's someone you care about."
Hasn't Missed a Race
Becky Wheeler of Tunnel Hill, Ga., has walked in every Race for the Cure since they began in Chattanooga — the first one only two months after her breast cancer diagnosis and just after she had lost her hair. For 13 years she was a member of the Breast Buds team before it disbanded and she joined Hakuna My Tatas.
Wheeler credits her annual mammogram for saving her life.
"It wasn't one lump the mammogram showed, it was multifocal (the presence of two or more groups of cancer cells within the same breast quadrant). I had it in one lymph node," she recalls.
"I had a biopsy, then a partial mastectomy. Then had a second surgery for a whole mastectomy, with reconstruction in the same day. I had four rounds of chemo, lost my hair, but never got sick."
Wheeler, a retired schoolteacher, recalls how students from her school, Pleasant Grove Elementary, and students at New Hope Elementary, where her daughter, Tama Ledford, taught, surprised her when they collected $5,000 to support her second year in Race for the Cure.
"This is my 15th year of no cancer," she says. "But I've stayed in the race each year because cancer was just such a scary thing to think about. When I saw my friends getting it, I knew I wanted to support them."
This morning, women of Mount Canaan Walking Eagles showed up for church wearing team T-shirts in place of their Sunday finest. It's an annual race-day tradition at Mount Canaan Baptist Church.
Mount Canaan's team is the largest faith-based group in Race for the Cure, according to Anita Stewart. Additionally, many of the congregation's members will show up this afternoon at McKenzie Arena to be sideline cheerleaders.
"We started with 30-something in 2001, now we have 126," says Shenikia Sturnes, 38, who coordinated the team with her mother, Juliet R. Sturnes. After her mother's death in 2010, Sturnes continued to organize the team in memory of her mother.
"My mother was a breast cancer survivor. We were walking at the mall one day and saw a sign about Race for the Cure and I said we should do that," Sturnes says. "That first year we just got members by word of mouth. Now our team includes a large number from the church, family members, friends from work and some who work out with team members.
"My mother was very dedicated about the importance of women getting checked out. Now I keep doing (the race) in memory of my mom and because I am truly hoping a cure is found in my lifetime," she says.
Hakuna My Tatas
To mark its 15th anniversary last year, Komen's Chattanooga affiliate put together a "Fab 15" list — 15 breast cancer survivors to be the faces of the Komen campaign, says Stewart. Lynn Hutchison was one of them. She is captain of team Hakuna My Tatas, making its second appearance in Race for the Cure.
Hutchison says her first diagnosis of breast cancer came after she felt a lump in her left breast while showering. Her nurse practitioner saw her that same day and referred her to a general surgeon.
Due to her pregnancy, the surgeon thought it might just be a swollen milk gland and asked her to come back in two to three weeks. On the second visit, it appeared the lump might even be a little larger, so a biopsy was performed.
The diagnosis: Stage 2 triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive breast cancer that responds well to chemotherapy, she says.
Her OB/GYN had never had a pregnant patient with breast cancer, so he referred her to Emory Hospital in Atlanta.
"We determined that I would have a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation. It was also recommended that I be induced and have my baby early so that I could begin chemotherapy as soon as possible," she recalls.
Hutchison agreed to the lumpectomy but refused to deliver early. Her healthy baby was born in November and she started chemo one month later. Over seven months she had eight chemotherapy and 35 radiation treatments.
Nine years later — almost deja vu — she again found a lump while showering. She says she recognized what it was because the lump was a mirror image of the previous one, just on the opposite side. This time her diagnosis was Stage 1 triple negative breast cancer.
"The treatment for this was six chemotherapy treatments and 35 radiation treatments. Due to toxicity of the heart (from the chemo), a previous drug could not be used, so different drugs were administered," she recalls.
While she describes her side effects during the first treatment as normal — hair loss, strange tastes, fatigue, some nerve problems — the second round of treatments took its toll on her body.
"In addition to normal side effects, I required three or four blood transfusions, a platelet transfusion, had intestinal problems, nose bleeds and developed Hand-Foot Syndrome (burns on the palms of her hands and bottom of her feet)," she says. When that drug was stopped and replaced with another, the side effects slowly subsided.
In 2012, she chose to do genetic testing and found that she had a mutation in a cancer suppressing gene (BRCA 1). Her father, who was later tested, was the carrier. She elected to have a double mastectomy and, after eight surgeries, completed reconstruction two months ago.
"I'm so thrilled to be finished with this process and move on to use my experience to help others in any way that I can. I was very quiet about my cancer until after my second diagnosis," she says. "It was Komen that truly helped me see that sharing my experience with others can be beneficial.
"This race is a big part of the fundraising needed to provide research, diagnostics and education. I want to do what I can to help now, and in the future, for my daughter, my son and others. Participating in the race is a way for me to do what I can to help raise funds. That is why I race."
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.