Cancer survivors share stories, find community at 'Beating the Odds' 5K

Cancer survivors share stories, find community at ‘Beating the Odds’ 5K

Speaking at Cancer Connection’s 25th annual Beat the Odds 5K, Emily Ricci told her story of beating cancer to a group of 400 — survivors, family and volunteers. Then they went for a run.

For Ricci, who’s my stepsister, her support network was crucial in seeing her through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

“The first time I called Cancer Connection, I felt really isolated,” Ricci said. “I didn’t know anyone else in a similar age or diagnosis in town, so I called Cancer Connection to use their Let’s Talk program. … It was really helpful to talk to people who had been through it and were doing fine, who were thriving. That made me feel like, one, I wasn’t alone, and two, that it was going to be OK no matter how scary it was.”

Cancer Connection’s Let’s Talk program connects cancer patients with survivors with similar diagnoses. Ricci’s Let’s Talk “buddy,” Tish Satre — who emceed Beat the Odds — encouraged Ricci to become involved as a volunteer after completing her treatment, something she said she was eager to do.

“I’ve had a chance to connect with other survivors, which is really exciting, but what’s most impactful to me is the opportunity to connect with young adult cancer survivors, so people diagnosed between the ages of 18 and 39,” Ricci said. “There’s not a lot of us in the state or in Juneau, so I’ve had an opportunity to connect with some of them and that has been pretty incredible, to be able to reach out and hopefully give them some sense of support when their overwhelmed.”

Ricci was diagnosed at 32 years old. She’s now in remission and more than a year out of treatment and is starting to feel “normal again.”

In addition to the Let’s Talk program, Ricci took advantage of Cancer Connection’s support groups and travel assistance, which provides up to $500 a year in travel reimbursement to Southeast cancer patients. Cancer Connection also rents a discounted apartment in Seattle to patients travelling for treatment. It’s located two blocks from Virginia Mason Hospital and three blocks from Swedish and Harborview hospitals “with nearby access to a dog park,” Cancer Connection president Ruth Johnson noted.

The Beat the Odds 5K took place this year without Cancer Connection founder Mike Miller, who died last year due to a rare genetic disease unrelated to cancer. Miller survived two different kinds of prostate cancer, one diagnosed as terminal. Johnson remembers her friend Miller as a larger-than-life personality, a swim coach who would remember his athletes split times from 10 years ago.

“It’s really weird. I will go to call him every few months to tell him something that made me think of him, and then I realize he’s not with us anymore,” Johnson said.

All proceeds from the Beat the Odds 5K race benefitted Cancer Connection.

 

Top 15 finishers:

1. Greg Frank 17:07

2. Brian Murphy 18:28

3. Kevin Hansen 19:53

4. Matthew Sims 20:14

5. Soren Thompson 20:54

6. Justin Jones 20:58

7. Carl Brodersen 21:52

8. Wesley Shutt 22:39

9. Kevin Enloe 22:56

10. Mindy Shaw 22:56

11. MaryAnn Love 22:56

12. Jennifer Watson 22:58

13. Coden Mesdag 23:25

14. Eli Crupi 23:26

15. Nicole Gorle 23:33

• Contact Sports and Outdoors reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or kevin.gullufsen@juneauempire.com.

Cancer survivors share stories, find community at 'Beating the Odds' 5K

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