A group of cancer survivors fighting to educate the public about the importance of colorectal cancer screenings are bringing their message to Dexter on Saturday for the second annual 'Feet and Friends Fighting Colon Cancer' 5K run/walk.
Karen Lewis, 53, of Brighton, along with her friend and fellow cancer survivor, Susan Snyder of Ann Arbor, are organizing this year's event at in Dexter.
"We're coming out to help raise money for the American Cancer Society, but our big goal is letting people know about the importance of cancer screenings and how no one should be embarrassed to talk about colorectal cancer," Lewis said. "It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, but it can easily be treated if its detected early."
An avid runner, Lewis has been participating in charity runs most of her life. At the age of 23, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease that caused severe weight loss and led to the removal of most of her colon.
"You are never too young to have something happen to your body," she said. "I went from a perfectly healthy person to a person with a chronic disease that would change my life."
Following her surgery, her health improved and she dedicated herself to helping others with serious medical conditions by competing in charitable marathon events. By completing 32 marathons and three ultra-marathons she has raised thousands of dollars to support research related to intestinal diseases, including more than $10,000 for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.
In 2005, however, she was also diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and several surgeries.
"I was devastated," Lewis recalled about the diagnosis. "Through faith and the support of friends and family, I was able to pull through."
Last year Lewis and Snyder launched the "Feet and Friends Fighting Colon Cancer" fundraiser at Gallup Park in Ann Arbor.
"The support has been overwhelming in a good way. Last year we managed to draw 550 participants and raised $60,000. We're down a little bit this year, but we're hoping to get a big push before the weekend and sign up another 200 runners," Lewis said.
The 5k walk/run begins at 8:45 a.m., followed by an 8k run at 9:30 a.m. All ages and skill levels are welcome.
Online registration ends at 11:59 p.m. tonight, but race participants can register at Running Fit, 5700 Jackson Road, in Ann Arbor, from 3-7 p.m. Friday. The entry fee is $30 per person through Friday and $35 on race day. Registration fee includes a commemorative T-shirt. A $5 entrance fee is required for each car on race day with the exception of those with an annual Metropark pass.
Handmade pottery awards by Stan Baker of Highers Pottery Studio in Ann Arbor will be presented to the overall and age group winners in the 5k and 8k events. The teams with the largest numbers of participants, contributions and cancer survivors will also receive awards.
"Our mission is to save lives," Lewis said. "We're thrilled to see such a strong level of support from the running community and hopefully they are spreading the word to others."