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Running with Cancer

Taking a break from training for the More magazine half marathon, (from left to right) Judy Fitzpatrick, Anne Foster, Dr. Pamela Peeke, Jessica Glickman and Marlyn Glickman pose in Rock Creek Park. (Eric Hughes)

What are you doing Sunday morning at 8?

Three area women will be taking a run through New York's Central Park as participants in the 6th annual More magazine half marathon -- the largest women-only 13-miler in the country.

Big deal, you say? Well, for Michele Conley, Betty Lawson and Marlyn Glickman, it's a very big deal indeed. All three are cancer survivors, and running (or walking) this race is part of their commitment to reclaiming their lives through nutrition and physical activity.

They've been training with Bethesda-based doctor Pamela Peeke, author of Body for Life for Women and Fight Fat after Forty. Peeke, a marathon runner herself, will lead the women on race day; she was asked by the race organizers to train a team of cancer survivors from across the country.

Conley, 44, a mother of 4 and owner of her own State Farm Insurance business, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35 and has suffered one recurrence but is now in good health, Peeke says. A former high-school track star, Conley is founder of the Living in Pink foundation in D.C., which raises funds for breast cancer research. Peeke serves as the foundation's volunteer medical director.

Lawson, 65, was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer 12 years ago. She, too, has had a recurrence but is now doing well. A walker, not a runner, she's done 10 marathons and 3 of the More magazine half-marathons, raising thousands of dollars for research.

Glickman, 59, was diagnosed with breast cancer 8 years ago and, despite a recurrence, now enjoys excellent health. She's never been a runner before. Her daughter Jessica, 29, will run with her to show support.

Peeke says the team's efforts highlight "the connections between physical activity and disease risk, treatment and prevention. Their higher levels of fitness have had a profound impact on these women's quality of life and life span. As the new national spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine's 'Exercise is Medicine' campaign, I would say that these women got the prescription and have been, as I love to say, 'medicating with movement' ever since."

According to Peeke, it takes 26,000 steps to do a half marathon. Good luck, ladies, every step of the way. (I'll report on how they do in Monday's blog.)

Readers, let's hear your stories. Has ramping up your physical activity and improving your diet helped you contend with serious illness?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  April 24, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cancer , Nutrition and Fitness , Women's Health  
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These women are pretty amazing. Many women with breast cancer who have reoccurences don't make it another 5 years, and often their remaining years are a maze of harsh treatments that wear them down and do less and less to control their disease. It's not unusual for women with metastatic breast cancer to have bone and arthritis problems from treatment drugs and to just plain not feel like going out and pounding themselves to this level of fitness.

I applaud these women and feel certain that their physical activity contributes to their high spirits in the face of a chronic life-threatening condition.

Every women with breast cancer, metastatic or not, has been through a marathon and is equally deserving of our respect.

Posted by: RedBird27 | April 24, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm interested, but puzzles. Most of them had breast cancer, were treated, and had a recurrence. So, are they running and walking with metastatic breast cancer--or did they have a new primary or just a recurrence in existing tissue (stressful, but not medically as threatening).

I'm a year out of treatment and I can't ramp up my physical activity because my back hurts. Now, I may have "40-year-old back," but as soon as you say "I hurt" to an oncologist, you are treated to a round of testing. I'd like to be more physically active, though.

Posted by: dynagirl | April 25, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Anyone with breast cancer should know about the data on vitamin D preventing progression. It was one of the highlights of ASCO last year. You can see the data on and sign up for their newsletter to keep up to date

Posted by: mbarnes012 | April 25, 2009 8:41 AM | Report abuse

My hat goes off to all of them.

We've got to re-focus our national priorities away from "defense" and on to health care and finding cures for the biggest killers of Americans.

Curing Cancer has got to be at the top of the list of non-defense projects.

God bless the women with cancer who posted here.

I've become a pariah on these boards by pointing out that we should cut the F22 and put the money into Cancer research.

People don't like to hear about Cancer.

They want to hear about Pirates, assault rifles, and gold plated flying turkeys like the F22.

We csn cure Cancer.

We just need to spend the money to do it.

God bless all those with Cancer and save them from it.

Posted by: svreader | April 27, 2009 2:42 AM | Report abuse

Three cheers for the women who are battling cancer in a positive way, and to Dr. Peeke who is leading them.

In a job-related physical in November, 2005, I was told I was anemic. That was two week after I finished my fifth Marine Corps Marathon. It was quite a shock when a trip to my regular doctor and a colonoscopy in January, 2006, revealed that I had stage 3B colon cancer. The operation followed two weeks later. I had not stopped running or training, and that got me out of the hospital a day early, according to my doctors. Quite a way to start my 65th year.

To make a long story short, I was walking on a treadmill two days after i was released from the hospital, and started chemotherapy a month later. I had already registered for the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon, and told anyone who would listen that I was going to run. I changed my diet, worked out every day, ran one race a month, and six weeks after completing my chemo treatments, I ran my best MCM.

Believe me; there were days during chemotherapy, that I had my doubts. I think that keeping a positive attitude, setting positive goals, and the encouragement and support of my family and the oncology staff, helped me battle my cancer.

In a follow-up meeting with my oncologist, he told me that I had been an inspiration to many of his patients and his staff. These three women are an inspiration for all.

Posted by: dave_oman | April 27, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

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