The annual Virginia Run Turkey Trot benefits Life with Cancer, Inova Health System's nonprofit program for cancer patients and their families.
It's traditionally run in honor of someone from that community who's recently died of cancer, and this year is no exception. The 5K run and 2K fun walk this Thanksgiving Day is dedicated to Brooks Jones, who died of lung cancer, July 9, at age 66.
"HE WAS a smoker, but he gave it up about 12 years ago," said his wife of 39 years, Sandra Jones. "I used to bug him about it." But he never had his lungs checked until 2 1/2 years ago, and that's when he was diagnosed with cancer.
They first realized something was wrong while visiting with friends in Myrtle Beach, S.C., to celebrate New Year's Eve. Brooks was a golfer and, after a day on the links, his friend told Sandra to make sure Brooks went to the doctor. "He was having a hard time breathing while walking on the golf course," she said.
So he saw a doctor and received the diagnosis, but vowed to fight it. "He said, 'I will beat this,' and he tried," said Sandra. "He began chemo and radiation because, at first, you always have that ray of hope. But it was terrible to see him go through it. And toward the end, I asked him if he'd do the chemo and radiation again — if he knew the outcome — and he said he wouldn't."
Brooks even tried a new chemotherapy drug for six months, but he'd lost his appetite and couldn't eat. So in January of this year, he went off the medication.
Before the cancer took hold, however, he was in good health. He was an outside sales representative for Maurice Electric in Washington, D.C., and worked until July 2005 when he started going downhill.
A longtime local resident, Brooks lived in the Town of Clifton as a young boy and used to play in the Hermitage Inn when it was just an empty house. And years later, he and his wife always returned for each Clifton Day celebration.
The Joneses lived in Centreville's Virginia Run community for 15 years and, in better days, they enjoyed socializing with friends and traveling to places such as Myrtle Beach and the Bahamas.
"We never had any children, so we did everything together," said Sandra. "We had a great life. But the good Lord had other plans for him."
Besides golfing, Brooks also liked fishing and hunting. And he had a passion for Elvis Presley.
"HE'D DRESS as Elvis for Halloween parties, and our basement is decorated in [tribute to] the 1950s, with Elvis memorabilia including a liquor decanter and a music box," said Sandra. "He had all the 45 records hung all around the room. I even played two Elvis songs at his funeral."
Calling her husband a "good guy," she said everybody loved him. "And he never complained, even when he was in a wheelchair. And that's the hard thing about cancer — seeing your loved one go."
The Joneses always went to Harrisburg, Pa., where Sandra's from, for the holidays. They were there last year, too; and although Brooks wasn't well, he still dressed up in a tuxedo and had fun.
But by January, Capital Hospice had to come to their home to help with his care. And, said Sandra, "They gave me a lot of support, too." And a week before he died, she said, the hospice nurse told her the end was near.
On July 8, the Joneses' minister, Amos Dodge with Capital Church, visited Brooks around 4 p.m. And early on July 9, Brooks died in his sleep.
"I think there's a season and a reason for everything in life," said Sandra. "Some days, it's hard, and I'm very sad. But I realize I had him for 39 years and it was a good marriage. I had many good years and good memories."
She also agrees with the minister's words at Brooks' memorial service: "We all have to go through the valley of death." And now she does the best she can because, she explained, "The good Lord wants me to get on with my life."
Sandra just had a knee replacement, so she can't walk in Thursday's Virginia Run Turkey Trot. But their longtime friends from Myrtle Beach will be here for Thanksgiving and will participate in the walk. Joining them will be Sandra's sister and brother-in-law from Delaware, along with a girl from Midland, Va., who helped Brooks via the "Visiting Angels" organization.
As for this year's event being held in his honor, Sandra said, "I feel good about it; I think Brooks will be smiling. He would be pleased."