Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cancer survivor is 'rear'ing to go


Last month, a new 5K quietly slipped onto the race calendar in Raleigh: the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K Run/Walk, which drew less than 350 runners in its first year but raised a chunk of dough that will fund colon and rectal cancer awareness efforts.

The event also has inspired a Queen City woman to try to bring a similar race here.

Susan Falco, 40, herself a colorectal cancer survivor, ran the Raleigh 5K in March and now is formulating a plan to make Charlotte one of more than a dozen U.S. cities that host Get Your Rear in Gear events. (Others can be found from Colchester, Vt., to San Francisco; the whole endeavor resembles the network of Komen Race for the Cure events, on a smaller scale.)

I've traded several e-mails with Susan over the past week, and it's clear she's serious. But she also needs serious help, as would anyone in her situation -- she doesn't have experience putting together significant races.

So I've agreed to help her get the word out. Here's the word according to Susan:

I was the worst track and field runner in the history of my New Jersey high school. At 4 feet 11 inches, I was working double-time to keep up with kids twice my size. Let's just say running was not my sport back then.

So I stayed away from it. For a loooong time. Then ... a year ago, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Over the next several months, I endured pain, anxiety, stress and hospital visits. Yet this crazy disease wound up giving me amazing gifts -- one of them was that six months after major surgery, I decided to put on a pair of running sneakers. I haven't looked back since.

And now, more than 20 years after my dubious high school track career ended, running has become a lifeline for me.

My first race was Charlotte's Jingle Jog 5K this past December. 3.1 miles might not be a big deal for some, but for a cancer survivor, it was surreal. I choked up at the first mile marker and finished the race as if I'd won.

So far, I've run three races, and have beaten my personal best each time. After running in Raleigh's Get Your Rear in Gear 5K for colorectal cancer in March, I vowed to bring this race to Charlotte.

I am doing this with the help of other young women who are survivors of the same cancer. We are at the very beginning stages of this process -- our first planning meeting will be held on Thursday, May 7, in Matthews, and I hope to select a date for the run a few weeks after that.

This will be a huge undertaking, and we'll need all the help we can get.

Thursday night's organizational team meeting will be held in the community conference room at the Matthews public library from 7 to 8:45 p.m. The branch is at 230 Matthews Station St. (click here for a map).

If you're interested in attending (no race-planning experience necessary!), drop Susan an e-mail at If you'd like more information about Get Your Rear in Gear events and Colon Cancer Coalition efforts, click here.