By: Kelly Thurman
The Avera Race Against Breast Cancer was the first race I ever ran.
As soon as I arrived, a ball of nervous energy, it was hard not to get excited. So many people in one spot running for so many things – personal records, as survivors, or in remembrance of love ones.
I flew down the Southeastern Avenue hill faster than I’d ever run before, then slogged up it on the way back wondering why I’d started so fast. It was the first time I felt like a true runner and my first introduction to the running community in Sioux Falls.
We all run for different reasons. Me? I’m not winning any awards for speed. I run to stay healthy as I head into middle age. I run races because I still love the exhilaration of that first mile, even though it always gets me in trouble.
The Avera Race brings so many people together because we can all relate. You may not run but you know someone diagnosed with cancer. Most know several. My father battled bladder cancer for years. It was a persistent itch that just wouldn’t go away. Always treatable and slow growing but never truly gone.
My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer twice. She also survived bladder cancer but eventually was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and passed away soon after. She skipped a colonoscopy because she was worn out following bladder cancer treatments. By the time she had symptoms the tumor was too large and too close to her spinal cord to be removed. If you ever think of skipping your colonoscopy, my advice is don’t.
I remember as a child going over to her house after her mastectomy to help take care of her as she recovered. I was annoyed that she needed so much help, too young to realize what an ordeal she was going through and how scared she must have been. Years later she had another mastectomy when the cancer came back.
She never had breast reconstruction. Financially it probably wasn’t feasible. For the rest of her life she wore special padding in her bra. She kept those pads in a box she affectionately called her “boob” box. I never really heard her talk about her cancer, and I never asked what it was like to lose such a large part of herself. She just did what she had to do and moved on with her life.
That’s one reason the Avera Race was created 30 years ago. A group of women started the race in support of Judy Davis who had recently been diagnosed. They wanted to raise awareness about a disease that women didn’t want to discuss.
Thirty years later, Davis says the annual race is her special day. “I love that day. It is thrilling for me to stand on the stage with Jackie (Haggar-Tuschen) and look out and see what we have accomplished. Family and friends come out to celebrate the survivors and honor those who have gone before us,” she said.
Things have changed over the years. Survivorship is much higher and women have more options when it comes to surgery, breast reconstruction and treatment. That’s in thanks large part to important research that’s being done across the world and right here in Sioux Falls.
The Avera Race is not only fun for runners, it helps fund programs for people right here in the Sioux Falls area. What does a donation do? It ensures every woman diagnosed with cancer gets a free wig. It funds breast cancer research. It provides support services to help with the side effects of treatment.
Most of all, it brings us together for a common cause. Just like we all run for different reasons, we all run for different people. My father keeps me going when the steps get harder — a reminder that sometimes I just need to keep going because I can.
When you fly down that hill at the start of the Avera Race, who will you be running for?
The 30th Avera Race Against Breast Cancer is May 12. There are 10K and 5K chip timed races and 3 mile and 1.5 mile walk options.
Register at AveraRaceSiouxFalls.org. Use code 605RUN for a special 605 Running discount.