Traverse City resident and avid cyclist Vita Morse became the fourth woman in her family to be diagnosed with breast cancer last November. Morse donates handmade knit items to the Remembrance Run auction. above
The 18th Annual Remembrance Run invites men, women and children to support the Women’s Cancer Fund, which provides financial assistance—from gas money and childcare—to Northern Michigan women facing cancer. left
Last November, Vita Morse’s aunt told her the breast cancer had returned for the third time – this time Stage III.
Shaken by her aunt’s bad news, Morse soonafter decided to perform a self-check breast exam while in the shower.
She found something. “I found a pea-size lump and thought, ‘Oh boy, I better check this out,” said the 50-year-old Traverse City resident.
Morse quickly scheduled an appointment with her physician at the Smith Family Breast Center where, at first the lump was undetectable by a diagnostic mammogram.
“My doctor picked it up on the ultrasound machine and told me, ‘Well, you’re in trouble,” said Morse, adding a biopsy confirmed she had breast cancer.
“My mother and both of her sisters all had breast cancer,” said the avid cyclist who’s been a top contender in many cycling races through the years, “so it didn’t blindside me when I found mine.”
Morse, her mother and her aunts are part of a growing list of women facing the second most common form of cancer in U.S. women.
A RUN TO REMEMBER
Nearly two decades ago, two friends— both members of the Traverse City Track Club—were at a New Years Eve party, discussing the possibility of hosting a running event that would financially support breast cancer patients.
Eighteen years later, the Remembrance Run returns to Timber Ridge Resort in Traverse City, on Saturday, Oct. 1, where participants will have the opportunity to raise both awareness and funds to help women fight breast cancer, along with other forms of cancer.
“It used to be that I could count on one hand how many friends and family members have been challenged by breast cancer, now I use two hands,” said Karen Wells, who has been involved with the Remembrance Run on and off for a number of years, but has served as its director for the past five years.
According to the most recent data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 202,964 U.S. women—in 2007—were diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,598 died that same year.
This form of cancer is also found in men; and although approximately 1,000 males in the U.S. are diagnosed each year, many wait to report the symptoms, allowing the cancer to spread to other parts of the body with less chance of recovery, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Because of the rarity for male breast cancer, most fundraising and awareness efforts are focused on women.
KEEPING THE HELP AT HOME
Looking at the larger picture, the National Institute of Health reported breast cancer as having the highest associated medical costs for the United States in 2010 at $16.5 billion.
While that amount may appear to reflect research and direct medical care, a considerable amount comes from the logistics of administrative coordinating and handling.
At first, the Remembrance Run served as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society; however, the women of the TC Track Club noticed the money raised during the run was actually being transferred outside of the local community; and much of that was going to administrative costs, said Wells.
The group of women aimed to change that cash flow by approaching Munson Medical Center with the goal of establishing a local cancer fund – hence, the birth of Northern Michigan’s Women’s Cancer Fund in 1997.
To date, the WCF has given $450,000 in financial assistance to over 725 area women with all forms of cancer, thanks to several organizations and annual events. However, the Remembrance Run continues to be the WCF’s Number One fundraiser.
Last year, the event raised $28,676 – a number organizers hope to surpass with the 18th year.
“This event is growing leaps and bounds,” said Wells. “Over the years we’ve gone from raising $300 to $3,000 and we’re now looking at raising over $30,000.”
The WCF has helped women dealing with cancer in Northern Michigan with financial burdens outside of treatment costs, such as childcare, utilities and gas money to and from appointments.
“It relieves a lot of the anxiety and stress for women who are going through a lot,” said Wells.
For Morse, the possibility of going through chemotherapy brought about fears for herself and her loved ones – ironically, her family’s history qualified Morse for a study on a test that determines whether or not chemotherapy would prove effective in keeping the cancer from returning.
“The test said that I didn’t need chemotherapy and I thank my lucky stars,” she said, instead opting for a mastectomy (which removed breast tissue).
“I started reconstruction in February. The end result is that I’m a 50-year-old with a nice set of hooters,” she laughed, a touch of relief in her voice. GETTING OUT THE WORD Aside from the walk, itself (1-mile and 5k run/walk courses through the wooded trails of Timber Ridge), perhaps the most important component of the Remembrance Run is the Breast Health Fair, from 8-10 a.m., which includes area health professionals and exhibits offering information on early breast detection, diagnosis, treatment, post treatment care and the challenges associated with breast cancer; along with a silent auction.
Over the past few years, Morse has donated several handmade knit hats, mittens and gloves to the event.
“I’m usually out of town that weekend, so I like to donate some items to the cause. This year I’ll be at a horse show with my daughter,” she said, adding her 15-yearold daughter is too young at the moment, but will eventually have a blood test to determine if she has the gene associated with breast cancer.
“That’s probably my biggest worry.” Wells said that like breast cancer, the Remembrance Run has reached beyond just women battling a disease.
“This used to be primarily a women’s event, but it has really turned into a family day where husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, kids and high school students come out to support a universal issue,” she said. “Breast cancer doesn’t just touch women.”
Registration for the 18th Annual Remembrance Run is available at remembrancerun.com where early signup includes an official t-shirt. Expect anywhere from 250 to over 500 participants at this year’s event, which includes a noncompetitive 1-mile and 5k run/walk through the trails of Timber Ridge Resort, in Traverse City, starting at 9:45 a.m. A Breast Health Fair will run from 8-10 a.m., featuring local vendors and exhibits on breast health and cancer awareness. Registration is $25 in advance ($65/family); $30 the day-of ($80/ family), which supports the Women’s Cancer Fund – providing financial assistance to area women facing cancer of all forms.