Cindi Meyer and son Austin embrace each other after participating in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Saturday. Meyer was diagnosed with breast cancer the same year she gave birth to her son. He gave her a reason to live and fight the disease.
Hundreds affected by breast cancer turned out in support Saturday for the inaugural Lawton Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
An estimated 700 people took part in a full morning of activities, including the 5-kilometer walk and run and a one-mile family fun run. The race, and others like it across the country organized by Susan G. Komen for the Cure, was meant to raise awareness of breast cancer and to help fund research toward a cure. When the Central Oklahoma Susan G. Komen affiliate expanded to include counties in western Oklahoma, members looked at the breast cancer demographics and discovered Comanche County’s need for additional awareness. Lorna Palmer, executive director, said the turnout at Saturday’s race was exceptional and will definitely expand in subsequent years.
“The first race we had in Oklahoma city had around a thousand people,” she said. “The last one we had there were 20,000 people. So there’s going to be room for expansion here.”
An overcast sky and a breeze dominated the morning, giving runners and walkers a break from the recent heat.
Many of the participants were survivors who turned out to show solidarity, defiance and courage in the face of breast cancer. Cindi Meyer was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. She gave birth to her son, Austin, that same year. They both took part in Saturday’s race.
“He was my reason to live,” Meyer said. “That’s how I got through it. Now we go to the Oklahoma City race every year. It’s great they brought one here to Lawton.”
Meyer no longer has breast cancer, but still carries the memories. Part of why she participates in the race for the cure each year is to help move on from the disease and try to put it behind her. But she said that will never truly happen.
“You never get closure for something like that,” she said. “It’s more of a reason to keep moving forward and stay healthy. And it’s to get the word out to other people that they aren’t alone.”
Jessica Martinez watched as her daughter, Allison, lined up for the kids’ run. Her employer is a sponsor, and she thought it also would be a good experience forAllison.
“My daughter’s 5 and I think it sets a good example,” she said, and she tried to explain what the race — and breast cancer — is about.
“I talked to her about it,” she said. “In our family cancer’s kind of rampant … “
“She kind of understands it,” she said.
While breast cancer primarily affects women, men are not immune. The American Cancer Society estimates about 2,190 men will be diagnosed with the disease this year and about 410 will die from it. Mark Goldstein was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988. At the time, he didn’t even know it was possible for men to contract the disease.
“I did not have a clue,” he said. “I was truly shocked. I didn’t know what to do.”
Goldstein went under the knife and all traces of the disease were successfully removed.
“It changed a part of me,” he said. “The major thing I had to tell myself was to pick up my life and move on just like before I had breast cancer and live.”
He has taken that message to heart and has since spent his time traveling to different states and participating in races across the country. A New Jersey resident, Goldstein was far from home Saturday, but was in Lawton for a good cause.
“I’m on a mission … to let everyone know that men should not die of breast cancer out of ignorance,” he said. “I like to consider myself a Komen ambassador in that regard.”
About 20 survivors were honored during the closing celebration. Some were new survivors while some counted their survivorship in the decades.
The race was a family reunion of sorts for sisters Linda Olligher Cerami, formerly of Lawton and now of College Station, Texas, and Phyllis Jadon of Penrose, Colo. Their parents still live here, and the race coincided with their visit home. Cerami, an 11-year survivor, was impressed with Lawton’s first Komen race and the volunteers who made it possible.
“I’ve been to several and this is wonderful,” she said. “I can’t believe it’s the first one they’ve had.”
“Make sure you get your mammograms,” Jadon, a 15-year survivor, told the crowd in the bleachers at Cameron Stadium. “That’s the big thing.”
By Josh Rouse
Staff Writer, Lawton Constitution