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Runners in the Susan G. Comen Race for the Cure cross the line while holding hands during last years race in Athens, Ohio on October 23, 2016.

Marathon aims to combat breast cancer, spread awareness

South Green Drive will be checkered pink and black as hundreds of advocates for breast cancer awareness will run the Athens Race for the Cure Sunday. 

In celebration of October being breast cancer awareness month, Ohio University’s School of Nursing and the Susan G. Komen Columbus organization is hosting the annual 5k Run/Walk. It is scheduled to begin Sunday at noon. There will also be a shorter one mile relaxed marathon named the One Family Fun Walk, which will begin at the same time. 

Online registrations will close the day before the race, but there will also be an on-site registration booth, which will open at 10 a.m. Sunday. For participants who register early, registration costs $25 for adults, $20 for breast cancer survivors and $15 for ages 3-22. The prices will increase by $5 on the day of the race. The tickets will accompany a “Race for the Cure” T-shirt.

About 1 in 8 females in the U.S. develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime, according to The Athens Race for the Cure aims to raise awareness about breast cancer and its preventive measures in the locality. 

Eliza Harper, an assistant professor at the school of nursing, said southeastern Ohio has one of the highest rates of breast cancer cases due to a dearth of awareness regarding the carcinoma. 

“I cannot stress enough how important early screening is,” Harper said. “The factor that leads to death rates being high for breast cancer is that people are not being screened early enough. It’s treatable and curable if caught early.”

Komen is in charge of distributing the funds, a chunk of which will be used in educational programs regarding breast cancer, Becca Thomas, the director of communications and marketing for the Susan G. Komen Columbus foundation, said. A part of the funds will also be used to purchase mobile mammogram screening vans that will provide free screenings for all. The funds acquired through the marathon will be specifically granted to support preventive programs in the counties across southeastern Ohio. 

Harper instructs the Community Health and Nursing class and she hopes to instill in the future nurses a set of holistic medical skills, she said. The class is offered each fall to the senior nursing students and they will get the opportunity to work on projects that benefit the society. 

“It’s a really different type of nursing,” Ty Tracy, a senior studying nursing, said regarding the class. “Everything else until this point that we have done in nursing has been just focusing on one patient. But with this class, it is more of focusing on the root cause of ‘Why we are helping someone with a drug overdose (and) how did they get there?’ ”

The Community Health and Nursing class is divided into three groups and each of them are responsible for organizing one of the three events: Athens Race for the Cure, a blood drive, and the Purple Gala. The latter in particular aims to kindle conversations and actions to combat the opioid epidemic. Each of these events address some of the many critical health issues facing Southeast Ohio. 

The unique set up of the class allows students the liberty to pick the project they would like to join. Jenna Williamson, a senior studying nursing, said her decision to work on Athens Race for the Cure was influenced by her personal connection to the affliction that threatens many members of the American population. 

“My mom passed away in February from breast cancer,” Williamson, a student leader for the Community Health and Nursing class, said. “So, the race is a way to memorialize her.”

The Susan G. Komen Foundation contributes to the effort by gathering sponsors and dealing with the financial aspects of the project, Madison Knecht, who is also a student leader of the Community Health and Nursing class, said.

The organization first joined hands with Harper in the hosting Athens Race for the Cure three years ago. The foundation is dedicated to researching breast cancer and reducing the current number of deaths by breast cancer by 50 percent within the next ten years

Several activities will accompany the day of the marathon. The students of the Community Health and Nursing class have also organized an expo with the help of Komen. Knecht said the expo will contain survivor advocacy stalls and several booths selling breast cancer awareness merchandise. It is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in the parking lot of the Peden Stadium. Komen and the students have also organized performances such as a concert by Julia Neville, a Nashville recording artist, for the participants along the route. 

About 900 people have registered for the marathon as of press time, but Harper is expecting the numbers to rise as the week comes to a close. Cheryl Brimner, the operations coordinator in the school of nursing, is also a longtime cancer survivor and said the marathon is particularly special for breast cancer survivors. 

“It wrenches my heart,” Brimner said with tears brimming in her eyes. “(Participating in the race) just makes me so thankful to know that I have been through it and I have survived.”


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