Champions against cancer 'Run 4 Life'
October 19, 2011
STUTTGART, Germany, Oct. 19, 2011 -- Cancer survivors, both those free of or living with the disease, brought their battle against the illness to Patch Barracks to remind the Stuttgart military community that there's no quitting the fight until there's a cure.
In a symbolic stand against cancer and other disabilities, more than 375 participants walked and ran laps on the Husky Field track in the second annual Run 4 Life relay Oct. 1.
"October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and cancer is a disability," said Eshe Faulcon, an Employment Equal Opportunity specialist with the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart EEO Office.
Bringing attention to the dreaded disease was the driving force behind this event, which was co-hosted by the garrison Religious Support Office's cancer support group and the EEO Office.
Kathleen D. Cole, the USAG Stuttgart deputy to the commander, flanked by cancer warriors on stage, kicked off the relay.
"Cancer is an equal opportunity disease," Cole said. "We've all been affected by it in one way or another. It doesn't discriminate. I'm wearing a black shirt because I have been through this and survived."
Cole's words, a speech by Liz Cruickshank, and Gabby Nelson's recitation of the poem, 'I Wear Pink,' visibly moved many of the cancer warriors on the stage, as tears filled many of their eyes.
The mood quickly changed, however, as small "hope flags" with names of cancer warriors written on them were placed alongside the edge of the Husky Field track.
"Hope flags are a tribute to those who are battling cancer, those who have survived cancer, and also those people who have braved cancer and lost the battle," said Faulcon.
With music in the background, the cancer warriors, all clad in black T-shirts, then took a "victory" lap while carrying a cloth banner with the slogan "No one fights alone."
Meanwhile, supporters formed a human chain along the perimeter on parts of the track, shouting, applauding and cheering them on.
Liz Cruickshank, a Navy spouse, was one of the warriors on that initial lap.
"I am a cancer survivor. I currently have cancer," said Cruickshank, who was diagnosed with cancer before age 40.
The journey has not been an easy one for Cruickshank, the team leader for the Run 4 Life Pink Platoon team and Run 4 Life co-coordinator, yet she remains positive. "I have a rare cancer -- an inoperable tumor," she said, "but I'm healthy. This is a huge event for me to stand alongside people like me."
After the victory lap, sixteen teams from various tenant units in the Stuttgart military community joined the warriors on the track.
"We're not raising any money. It's in honor to show our support," said Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Kinney, U.S. European Command directorate of communications senior enlisted leader and Run 4 Life team captain for Team Linda.
Team Linda ran for Linda Ferrell, a Department of Defense civilian communications planner who was recently diagnosed with leukemia.
"I have a slow-growing bone marrow disease. It takes years to show up in your blood," Ferrell said. "It's not something that they routinely find."
Ferrell urged others to reduce their cancer risk with regular checkups.
"Please get a blood test every year, because that's how mine was caught," Ferrell said.
A diagnosis of cancer can be overwhelming. One common piece of advice among the survivors was to "be around people who know what you're talking about and can understand what you're going through."
"Birds flock, fish school, buffaloes herd, but when we hurt we tend to separate, and we're stronger when we come together," said Chaplain (Col.) Randall Dolinger, the USAG Stuttgart command chaplain.
While the first Run 4 Life grew out of the RSO cancer support group founded last year by Alma Fowler, a former United Service Organizations director, today, that support group is joining forces with Army Community Service.
Those community members looking for a cancer support group will now find resources through the garrison's Exceptional Family Member Program.
EFMP works with local agencies to provide families with special needs a wide variety of comprehensive and coordinated services.
The program hosts a cancer support group that meets on the last Thursday of each month from 6-7 p.m. at ACS on Panzer Kaserne.
Lisa Gregor, the USAG Stuttgart Exceptional Family Member Program manager, was at Run 4 Life.
"This is a way for me to reach out so that they know I'm here to help," Gregor said.
Midway through the event, she had registered 15 cancer survivors for her program.
"It has been amazing," Gregor said.
Yet, no more amazing than the support shown by the Run 4 Life participants.
When the last lap was called, and the scores were tallied, Pink Platoon racked up 1,086 laps to earn the team title.
The team You Are Not Alone received the most members' certificate award for having 43 participants.