Saturday's Remembrance Run in Traverse City Benefits Northern Michigan Women Battling Cancer

Saturday’s Remembrance Run in Traverse City Benefits Northern Michigan Women Battling Cancer

When Roberta Lathrop’s doctor diagnosed her with breast cancer, her world stood still.

“When they told me, something inside me just shut down,” she said. “As soon as he said it’s positive, I left my body.”

Thankfully, a mastectomy and follow-up care helped her beat the disease. However, during her treatment and recovery she missed work, putting a strain on the household budget.With winter on its way, her family needed help to fill their propane tank. Thanks to money provided by the Women’s Cancer Fund (WCF), Lathrop’s tank was filled and her family stayed warm.

“They took care of the propane bill,” she said.

All proceeds from the annual Remembrance Run, which celebrates 21 years this Saturday, October 4, benefit the WCF. Packet pick-up and registration take place on Thursday, October 2, from noon to 7 p.m. The 5K run/walk begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, with a health fair taking place prior to the event from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a sponsor of the event and will be on hand at the health fair.

The WCF covers basic and not-so-basic necessities for Northern Michigan women undergoing or recovering from cancer treatments. Women have turned to the WCF for help paying for food, gas, cleaning services, massage therapy, wigs and more. Money from the fund can’t be used for medication or medical services, but it does relieve financial burdens for women fighting cancer.

“Whatever we need to do for the cancer patients that are coming through our system, we’re able to do,” said Jane Rolf, Breast Health Services Coordinator at the Munson Healthcare Smith Family Breast Health Center. WCF administrative costs are completely absorbed by Munson and Rolf is one of the administrators of the fund.

“When they need help with mortgage payments, we’ll pay for mortgage payments,” she said.

For Lathrop, the fund helped her through a difficult time. She’d actually been fundraising for the WCF since 2007 in honor of her mother, who’s survived multiple bouts with breast cancer. When Lathrop was diagnosed in 2011, she said it didn’t even occur to her to call them for help.

She’s thankful she did and her fundraising efforts are now in overdrive to give back to other women going through the same predicament. She raised $1,600 last year selling cookbooks and is selling t-shirts perfect for World Series baseball season (If you’re interested in a t-shirt, contact Lathrop at robertalathrop@yahoo.com to order.)

“You know the money is being used so properly and not being abused,” Lathrop said. “I just can’t recommend a better foundation out there for women.” Rolf said most women who turn to the WCF for help don’t want to, and, like Lathrop, tend to give back when they are able.

Remembrance Run Race Director Karen Wells said Saturday’s event has raised over $220,000 since its inception in 1994, averaging about $30,000 per year over the last four years. She expects about 600 participants this year, saying the race keeps getting more and more popular.

“We’ve helped thousands of women over the years,” Wells said.

This year’s walk will begin with a traditional bagpiper and a tribute board that participants will be able to write the names of the people they’re walking for on. Wells said the event is an uplifting way to pay tribute to those who’ve been lost to breast cancer, survivors, and those currently undergoing treatment.

Wells has her own personal ties to breast cancer. Her sister and grandmothers all had it, and her longtime neighbor, Gloria Hodgins, died of the disease.

“I’m very diligent about mammography and recognize that it could easily at any moment be me,” Wells said.

The absence of a good neighbor is felt often.

“Each day I’m thinking of her and remembering the fight that she had,” Wells said. “Each year I think of Gloria as I do this.”

If you can’t make the race, there are plenty of other ways to donate and contribute to the WCF on the Remembrance Run website.

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