Half-marathon, 5K join forces to promote health and cancer awareness

Published: Oct. 5, 2018 at 4:57 PM CDT
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Saturday morning, more than 1,700 runners and walkers will fill streets in Brown County, celebrating good health and raising money for cancer awareness and education.

The Bellin Women's half-marathon has teamed up with the Pink Pumpkin 5K to keep the community health.

They used to be separate races but with similar missions of healthy living and educating others, especially women, about cancer. They realized one event is better than two.

"It's not just about the day, it's about the training that led up to it, and that's really what us as a health system are really happy about, is that they're getting out there on a daily basis, being active, helping their mental health and self-esteem," race director Linda Maxwell said.

This year, the finish line comes complete with a pumpkin patch -- of pink pumpkins.

There are 120 pumpkins decorated for breast cancer awareness, many with names honoring or remembering someone who's battled cancer.

Some of the race proceeds benefit the Breast Cancer Family Foundation, which visits schools to teach kids about cancer prevention and living a healthy lifestyle.

"In Brown County we reach about 3,000 students every year, but overall in the entire state it's close to 15,000, so this is a huge fundraiser to support that because it's free of charge to the teachers when we go in," Breast Cancer Family Foundation executive director Diane Gaywont said.

Karen Trom's journey through cancer is leading her back to the starting line sooner than expected.

"It's fun. This is actually my fourth one. I've been in every one of these so far. This year, a little bit different through because I'm doing it as a cancer survivor," Trom said. "Had a little wrench in the gears this summer and didn't know if I'd be doing this one."

Trom smiles through that "little wrench" in plans now, but being diagnosed with uterine cancer earlier this year came as a shock to this active mom and runner.

"It's all very frightening, because I felt completely healthy. In fact, I did a half-marathon two weeks before my surgery. Did a 5K two days before my surgery."

Little can slow Karen down, and like many of us she thought she couldn't get cancer. But she noticed some health issues -- and ignored them for a while, then something finally pushed her to get it checked out.

"I get that phone call and my doctor, I answered, and she's like, "Karen, I'm so sorry, you've got cancer.'"

Now she encourages other women to ask questions and call their doctors.

"I've had a couple of strangers contact me. That one, she's 35 years old, had some issues and never thought about it, went in and hers turned out to be very simple to fix. Another one who will be going in for surgery. But I think just the real awareness piece for everybody, to check it out."

Maxwell said the stories of cancer survivors are inspiring.

"If other people have symptoms they're not quite sure about, she is encouraging them to take those steps to check with their doctor. So she might have saved lives out there," Maxwell said.

Karen is eager to add another medal to her Bellin Women's Half-Marathon collection, knowing this one gives new meaning to "good health."

"It can happen to you," Trom said. "We're all out here saying we're running, we eat well, we're healthy. Boom! It can happen."