The American Cancer Society says every two minutes, a new case of breast cancer is diagnosed in a woman in the United States. In addition, every 13 minutes, a woman in the U.S. will lose her life to breast cancer.
This year, the overall numbers are staggering with an estimated 252,710 new cases of breast cancer expected to be diagnosed.
In 1980, the five-year relative survival rate for woman diagnosed with early stage breast cancer was 74 percent. Today, that number is 99 percent. Also, the statistics show that one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime and as of March of this year, there are more than 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer and this includes those being treated and women who have finished treatment.
The definition of breast cancer refers to a malignant tumor in the cells of the breast.
Jennifer Whitaker Rush of Christiansburg knows that definition very well as she watched her mother Gaye courageously battle breast cancer.
“She never gave up, she never lost hope and she remained faithful through the end,” Rush said.
Following her mother’s death, Rush decided she wanted to raise money for others undergoing treatment and battle. She started the Gaye Y. Whitaker Memorial Fund, which raises money for local women battling cancer, and by holding fitness related fundraisers, brings awareness of how exercise can lower the risks of some cancers.
“Distributions from this fund are awarded each year to a woman local to the New River Valley who is facing a cancer diagnosis. Considerations are given to those who have demonstrated similar strength, courage and faith in her battle,” Rush said.
All proceeds from this year’s event will be given to the family of Ashley Harmon of Floyd.
Rush said Ashley had overcome many obstacles in her life when she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer last year. She passed in June.
“Ashley fought with courage and faith and a smile on her face,” Rush said. “The memorial fund is committed to raise money in her memory and help her family with expenses.”
“She was described as a beautiful person who has a radiant smile that melts your heart. That even on her worst days, she was smiling. They attributed that to the love of Christ in her heart. She had already overcome many obstacles in her. Her motto through it all was ‘God’s got this’.”
Over the past two years, Rush has held boot camps, bake sales and of course the 5K.
“We often hold fitness related fundraisers (such as boot camps and 5K walk/run events) to also raise awareness that exercise can reduce the risks of some cancer,” she said.
These activities can mean different things to different people, especially those fighting breast cancer and those that have survived.
“The run can mean different things to many people. It’s a challenging 5K course for those interested in running a competitive race. To the grieving family of Ashley, the 5K is an amazing show of community support. To the individual runner/walker it’s a great feeling to know your participation is helping a great cause. There are so many people that have been affected by cancer, whether it be directly or through a family member or friend, participating in the 5K is a great way to honor their fight,” Rush said.
As organizers and volunteers, they also hope to raise awareness that cancer affects many in our community and to demonstrate that their friends and neighbors will rally to support and help them fight it together.
Last year, the 5K had a little over 100 participants. Organizers hope to meet or exceed that number again this year.
This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, October 7 with both a run and walk. Registration opens at 8:30 a.m. on the day of the race with $15 fee in advance of the day and $20 on the day. “Finish the Fight” t-shirts will be available for $10.
Awards will be given for top runners with additional giveaways at the end of the race.
For more information, go to HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/gayewhitakermemorialfund” www.facebook.com/gayewhitakermemorialfund. To register, visit HYPERLINK “http://www.raceentry.com” www.raceentry.com.