By Jason L. Austin, USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg Public AffairsAugust 28, 2008
HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Watching Gloria Steed run down Heidelberg's Hauptstrasse as she trains for the November Athens Classic Marathon, you would never guess that she's taking part in a more serious race every day.
Steed was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, and after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she had a two-year period of remission. Now the cancer, an aggressive form, is back, and so are the chemotherapy treatments.
"Your body adjusts to it just like running," Steed said, "you gradually add the miles."
While she has slowed her pace somewhat to around a 10-minute mile, she hasn't slowed her life down because of her cancer or treatment regime. She even admits to feeling great after a 26.2-mile race run at the slower pace.
"I was a marathoner before, and I'm a marathoner today," Steed said. "I've always been active in sports."
Steed, who has three adult sons, has competed and placed in her age group in many running events over the years. In addition to running, she has competed in summer biathlons, which combine cross-country running and marksmanship and duathlons, which combine running and cycling.
Recently she hiked several peaks in the Alps and rode in the Road to Liberty cycling tour this summer, which traced a 362-kilometer path through the beaches and battlefields of Normandy.
Steed says she does not have any of the common risk factors when it comes to cancer, and she has led a healthy lifestyle most of her life.
"It was a surprise to me," Steed said. "But I'm not really afraid of it because of my faith."
With an exception for her teenaged years, Steed says she has always had a healthy diet. She remembers eating fresh vegetables out of her parents' and grandparents' garden growing up in Mississippi, and she has continued to eat healthy as an adult.
"That has helped me," she said. "It has given me the energy to continue with my lifestyle."
In the beginning of her run with cancer, Steed says she limited herself some, but she realized that it wasn't her body limiting her, so she decided to "just go do it."
Her doctors in 2005 advised her not to exercise, saying she would need her strength, but she did anyway, and she feels it was helpful in getting her through.
Now cancer researchers have come in line with her and the American Cancer Society promotes exercise as a way to combat cancer-related fatigue.
For Steed, running combats more than just fatigue.
"When I run I have down time to clear my mind of things," Steed said. "I also often run with friends, and we talk about whatever is going on."
Another group of people Steed goes to for counsel is the local cancer support group sponsored by the Heidelberg Health Center.
"I go there just to get information on other people's experience and to get advice from others," Steed said. "I like to give advice to new people who don't want to talk about it yet.
"It's helpful to get together in a group like that."
Her advice: "Exercise. I think it helps and gives you more energy and to stay positive."
It's the second part of her advice that is most evident to those around her.
"It is her optimism coupled with her resilience that has made a difference for her," said Roy Hurndon, deputy commander, U.S. Army Garrison Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg. "She has set an example for others."
Steed has continued to work a full schedule as chief of the garrison's Internal Review and Audit Compliance Office while undergoing treatments.
The IRACO office ensures that directorates follow regulations and are using resources efficiently and effectively.
Ironically, it was an act of not following the American Cancer Society guideline that women over 40 should get annual mammograms that Steed attributes to her struggles with the disease.
"I didn't get a mammogram one year, and the next year I was diagnosed," she said.
That is why she advocates early screenings and awareness campaigns such as the upcoming Cancer Awareness Laps for Life event.
"The program Answer the CALL (Cancer Awareness Laps for Life) is an overnight celebration of life and cancer survivorship," according to the Answer the CALL Web site, www.answerthecall00.com.
"Answer the CALL is a community-driven event chartered in Heidelberg. It is a great and effective way for the community to work together in the fight against cancer."
"I think people should have the opportunity for early screening and to get more information about cancer," Steed said after committing to the walk scheduled for 4:30 p.m.-6 a.m. Sept. 19-20 at Heidelberg's Patrick Henry Elementary School track field.
Relay team registration and a health fair will begin at 4 p.m. The health fair will include cancer screenings and education on prevention and detection.
Entertainment will be provided during the event, and concessions will be available.
Steed, in the mean time, continues her treatments and her training while reassuring her sons. "They know I'm a strong person and feel the same as me," Steed said. "I will win this battle with cancer."