Even though Fairfax resident Peggy Goode is not yet fully in remission from leukemia, she feels pretty good. So good that instead of running in one marathon, as she did last year and the year before, she has decided to run in two. For the third year in a row, she will be participating in the Rock ‘n' Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach over Labor Day weekend, and for the first time, she will be running in an Oct. 24 women's marathon in San Francisco with a friend.
Her reason for running is to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, an organization that she says she owes much gratitude for helping her through her treatments. Not only did the organization provide resource support, it helped her pay for an expensive medicine for her treatment.
"They really go out of their way to help people in every component of their life," said Goode, who was diagnosed with leukemia in December 1999 and completed treatments just this past April.
Goode is one of several area residents training to run the 13.1-mile, Rock ‘n' Roll Half Marathon this Labor Day weekend in Virginia Beach. All the runners are raising money for the research and outreach programs of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In addition to individual conditioning, the local runners have been getting together every Saturday for the past several weeks to train on area trails such as the Washington & Old Dominion Trail and the Crescent Trail.
Many of those who are in training are survivors themselves like Goode, or have family members or friends who had been diagnosed with any of the various blood cancers. All of them run with the hopes of one day finding a cure for the disease. While the money raised varies with each participant, 75 percent of it goes toward the Society for its research and outreach programs.
"We really want to do what we can to fund the research," said Laura Hull of Herndon, whose daughter was diagnosed with leukemia eight years ago at age 7.
ACCORDING TO the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, more than 670,000 Americans have some type of blood cancer, be it leukemia, Hodgkins or non-Hodgkins lymphoma or myeloma. Among those Americans are children, for whom leukemia is the leading cause of disease death for those under age 15. The survival rate for myeloma is about 30 percent, while lymphoma is the most common blood cancer with incidents increasing with age. Incidents of the blood cancers are twice as high among African-Americans.
The society estimates that every five minutes, someone is diagnosed with blood cancer, and every nine minutes, someone dies.
Yet with ongoing medical advancements, the society expects the numbers to decline until a cure is found.
"Naturally, we've made some great strides, but there's still a long way to go," said Karen Headley, director of Team in Training, the program that oversees the marathons.
With those numbers, the marathon runners said they want to help raise money for the society to help them reach their goal.
"It's actually very worthwhile," Goode said.
Goode said she has benefited from the marathons in many different ways. While they have helped her to become stronger and more fit, the marathons have also helped her connect with friends, family and even strangers. For the past two years, she has been an "honored teammate," which means that teams have run in her honor.
"It's very difficult for me to express how appreciative I am," said Goode. "I think about people who get up at 5 a.m. [to train]. ... These people are meeting enormous challenges to benefit a stranger."
That community of generosity is what the Hull family of Herndon hopes to encounter. The family's goal is to raise $100,000 for the society. The two Hull daughters, cancer survivor Marissa, 15, and Andrea, 17, are being coached by their mother, Laura, for the half-marathon.
THIS YEAR is the third time that Andrea has run in the Rock ‘n' Roll Half Marathon, and the first year for the whole family to participate.
"It's fun. We have a good time doing this," Hull said.
Other area participants include Karen Collins, a Springfield mother, who is running in honor of her 14-year-old daughter, Katie, who was diagnosed with leukemia at age 11 but is now in remission; Kelly Linderman, a Fairfax County Public Schools teacher and cancer survivor; and Anita Magrath, a mother and teacher helping out by coaching.
Scott Kalski of Maryland participated in a March 100-mile bicycle ride in Nevada organized by Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
"I think just about anyone who is reasonably athletic, knows how to ride and has determination to see it through can do it," said Kalski, a biking enthusiast and leukemia survivor in remission for three years. "Some people had barely ridden a bike before we started and were able to finish."
"It's one of the most memorable experiences they will ever have so they should really try to fit in their schedule," he said.
Although the marathon participants have been busy training, they all expressed a wish for a day when they would no longer have to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Even so, the participants, especially survivors like Goode, want others to benefit as medical advancements continue.
"There is enormous hope, there is enormous potential for the research," Goode said. "There are people living today who may not have lived years ago."