Only the beginning

Eric Murphy of Sioux Falls crossed the finish line of Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Sunday morning with two very good reasons for participating in the event perched on his shoulders — his two-year-old twin daughters, Emma and Erica.

"We didn't all walk in the race the whole way," Eric said, referring to his wife, Donna, and their two young girls. "I think the girls got pushed a little bit," he said, laughing, referring to how he and his wife carried their girls for the first half of the 5 kilometer race, and tried their best to keep them on track as they all walked the second half.Racers could choose between a 1 mile fun run/walk or a 5K fun run/walk. Both events began shortly after 9 a.m. outside of the DakotaDome, wound through the heart of Vermillion, and finished below a large arc of pink balloons midfield on the Dome's gridiron.

"We're here for a friend, Jill Roberts, who has just been diagnosed (with breast cancer)," Eric said. "She is two or three months along (since being diagnosed) and we're hoping everything turns out well."

"She's our neighbor and our good friend," Donna said. "So we needed to be part of this. It was fun. We eventually were chasing our girls; as they were throwing things, we were picking them up, and they kept losing their shoes. They kept us entertained."

The goal of every woman, man, boy and girl who took part in Vermillion's second annual race is simple. All hope that breast cancer will someday be talked about in the past tense; that it will never be a threat to young girls like Emma and Erica as they reach adulthood.

Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Susan G. Komen for the Cure is the world's largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find cures. Thanks to events like Sunday's race in Vermillion, approximately $1.3 billion has been invested to fulfill Brinker's promise to her sister. The race has the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a 501(c) (3) Public Charity as determined by the Internal Revenue Code, operating under the Charter of the organization, headquartered in Dallas, TX. Since its inception in 1982 the Komen Foundation and its affiliate network have raised $750 million for breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment.

The goal of Sunday's race was to raise $75,000. Less than an hour after the last person crossed the finish line in the DakotaDome, organizers announced that funds had already reached approximately $58,000, and were still climbing.

When Jill Roberts crossed the finish line, she, like other cancer survivors who participated, had a medallion hung around her neck by one of the event's many volunteers. The race gave Jill an opportunity to honor her mother, who recently succumbed to breast cancer, and poignantly reflect on the consequences this same disease has forced upon her.

"I was diagnosed with breast cancer the end of the July," she said. "I had a double mastectomy on Aug. 14, and they removed 17 of my lymph nodes, four of which contained cancer."

Cancer was found just in her right breast. She opted for the double mastectomy because of her family history. "That was my choice."She recently "hit a bump in the road" in her battle against the disease. "Now one of my lymph nodes is swollen and it (cancer) has spread into that lymph node. So now I'm kind of up in the air as to what my treatment will be — either chemo or the hormonal therapy."

Jill was scheduled to have more chemotherapy, but doctors canceled that when the additional cancer was discovered. Her next visit to her doctor, where she will learn what future course of treatment she will endure, was scheduled the day after the race, Monday, in Sioux Falls.

"My doctor and a panel of other doctors will review my case at 4 p.m. They will call me Monday night, and I will find out what my next step forward will be. It could be chemo, it could be hormonal therapy. It could be radiation, also. I'm a strong woman, and I'll get through this.

"Today has been very emotional," Jill said. "It's hard not having my mother here, but to see all of these people — I can't describe it. I makes you feel good to see so many people here, but it's also sad to think that this many people have been struck with this disease." The South Dakota affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure was established in 2005. To date, the affiliate has given more than $500,000 to the people of South Dakota to fulfill unmet breast health needs across the state. "You have taken steps to make a difference in everyone's lives," Betty Meyer, president of the South Dakota affiliate, said during a brief award program following the race. "Seventy five percent of the dollars that we raise stay in our state, and we give out grants across the state to help pay for mammogram screenings, for treatment, and for therapy. Last year we gave out more than $200,000 in grants."

The remaining 25 percent of the funds raised goes directly back to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. "That is used for the groundbreaking research that is being accomplished, and is needed so desperately … I couldn't be prouder to be a member of this wonderful organization, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking steps to make a difference in our South Dakota sisters' lives."

Ellen Grimlie of Sioux Falls was overcome with emotion as she was recognized as the breast cancer survivor who clocked the best time in Sunday's race for the cure.Her appearance is deceiving. She wore a pink bandana around her head, and her scalp sports a very light crop of hair. Her treatment, however, ended years ago.

"I got cancer four years ago, and went through treatment, and I'm cured," she said while preparing to leave the DakotaDome with her husband, Terry, following Sunday's ceremony. "My oncologist says, 'As long as you don't have a pain, you're fine.' "But my hair did not grow back which is totally not normal, but there's nothing wrong with me other than I look like my dad. Most of the time I wear a wig because people think I'm sick. But I feel good," she said with growing enthusiasm. Her survival can be credited not only to breakthroughs in cancer treatment, but also her husband.

"I think it's important to note that Terry found the lump before I did," she said. "It's important to be looking for those things, whether it's the female or the male in the relationship."Ellen decided to have doctors perform a double mastectomy as part of her treatment. "It was a tiny lump, but there were actually two, and it was stage three. My mammogram was scheduled for about six weeks after we found the lump. If we had waited … there could have been more of them."

Her experience points out how breast cancer can strike any woman. "I did all of the right things all of my life – ran, exercised, ate right, and no history in my family, but I'm a female," Ellen said. "It (cancer) rains on everybody, but I'm a survivor, and I'm so touched. I had no idea that this presentation would happen to me today."

Over 2,700 people participated in Sunday's race. Last year, just over 2,000 racers were involved in the inaugural event in Vermillion.

"We are definitely getting bigger and better," said Colette Abbott, Vermillion, chair of the Komen South Dakota Race for the Cure. "We've had lots more people. We had people here from Sturgis, Rapid City, Spearfish, Brookings. They came from all ends of the state."

The money that is raised to support cancer research and provide needed services to women is a well-recognized goal of the race. There's a secondary aspect of the event that Colette finds equally, if not more, important."It's the support that the people get from each other," she said. "We have all kinds of age levels, we have people who have survived cancer for both short times and long periods of time, and this is so important to so many family members."

As Colette spoke, volunteers had begun gathering up the chairs and taking down booths that had been set up on the DakotaDome floor."The work that people put into this is just fantastic," she said. "Before we know it, everything that needs to happen just gets done. It's amazing."

The race, Colette said, wouldn't be a growing success without the help of not only the local committee that organizes the event, but also the entire Vermillion community.

"It's unbelievable. The city of Vermillion went above and beyond in every aspect of this," she said. "And the university is phenomenal. We're allowed to have the use of this wonderful facility, the DakotaDome, and so many great people."

The local committee, Colette said, will meet with city officials soon to start planning for the next race for the cure, which will be held in Vermillion Oct. 10, 2010.

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