Race for Cure celebrates 20th year with two eventsWritten by Jay Hathaway | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan G. Komen for the Cure of Northwest Ohio is once again ready to kick off its Race for the Cure festivities and to honor two local women who have exemplified courage while facing cancer.
This year’s “In Celebration of” honoree is Kelli Andres, a Sylvania mother who has conquered cancer not once, but twice. Alongside Andres is the “In Memory of” honoree, Denise Soto, who owned Soto Loft and Signature Spa in Perrysburg and lost her battle with breast cancer in 2011.
Andres, who has taken part in the race for the past three years, will be honored at the race and at events like survivor breakfasts. She has also spoken on behalf of Komen for radio and television appearances.
“It’s a huge honor,” Andres said. “The Susan G. Komen foundation is such a leading force in breast cancer awareness and research, and servicing women in Northwest Ohio. Just being associated with them in that capacity is humbling. It’s so humbling, because every woman has their battles and all those [survivors] are so deserving as well.”
Andres is a fantastic representation of what the foundation stands for, said Stephanie Pilgrim, marketing and communications manager at Komen Northwest Ohio.
“She has overcome adversity, and has come out on the other side of things. Since she’s been diagnosed with breast cancer, she has made it her mission to fundraise. She’s always put other people ahead of herself, and that’s something that we really admire, and that’s why we chose her,” Pilgrim said.
When Andres was 12 years old, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in her knee.
“I had a doctor tell me, ‘The only way for you to survive is if we take your leg,’” Andres said.
After having her left leg amputated, Andres went through 15 months of chemotherapy. She said at that time, 1977, the survival rate for her type of cancer was about 50 percent.
“I was a preteen and went through junior high going to chemotherapy, but I did well, did my checkups and never had a recurrence,” Andres said.
She later attended the University of Toledo and began a career in marketing. After marrying her husband, Van, and having two sons, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom.
Then, in 2010, Andres was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer, which required a mastectomy and more sessions of chemotherapy.
“It was a long year,” Andres said. “We took that time to teach our boys about the ‘silver lining.’ We had friends that were bringing us meals, and friends that sent their teenage boys over to mow our lawn during the summer. You just see this shining light that tells you that there are people all around you that do great things.”
Andres again overcame her cancer, and once she was feeling better, she began to get involved with fundraising efforts, including Komen for the Cure.
Andres and her family now spend time hosting events like “Confections for the Cure,” a pink dessert party, which raised nearly $2,500, as well as fundraising efforts during both her husband’s and sons’ birthday parties. For the latter, friends were encouraged to bring donations in lieu of gifts, and raised $175 for Komen for the Cure.
“Just to listen to those boys cheer each other on as he was opening cards, it was just amazing,” Andres said.
In addition to raising money, Andres emphasized the need to raise awareness and to educate more women about the importance of staying on a regular checkup schedule.
“Early detection is not a cure, but it saves lives,” Andres said. “When your cancer is detected early, the survival rate is extremely high. Women need to be vigilant about self-exams and getting mammograms.”
Andres offered advice for women diagnosed with breast cancer, including the importance of drinking a lot of water to offset some chemotherapy side effects, and avoiding excessive searches for information.
“I remember being overwhelmed early on, and it took me about six weeks to get my head around it. You really have to just take it one day at a time. I think that really makes a difference. Also, the Internet is a great thing for information, but it can be scary, and it can be overload. I did just enough to find out the right questions to ask. Your doctor will tell you about credible sources to go to, because there are a lot of sources out there that are unreliable or misleading.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and be your own advocate, because that way, you can still have some control,” she added.
This year marks the 20th time Race for the Cure has been held in Toledo, and several new additions will be featured, including a second race in Northwest Ohio.
“We decided to launch the inaugural Findlay race,” Pilgrim said. “With the milestone of 20 years, it would be nice to start something else. We are absolutely thrilled about it.”
The Findlay Race for the Cure will take place Sept. 28, the day before the Toledo race. For the Toledo race, Downtown streets along the route will close at 6 a.m. Sept. 29, and festivities begin around 7 a.m. Attractions include a survivors’ tent for breakfast, a gift shop and a kids’ area.
For more information, visit www.komennwohio.org.
Tags: cancer, chemotherapy, Denise Soto, Findlay Race for the Cure, mastectomy, osteosarcoma, Perrysburg, Race for the Cure, Soto Loft and Signature Spa, Susan G. Komen, Susan G. Komen for the Cure of Northwest Ohio, Susan G. Komen Foundation, University of Toledo