One run not just for fun: cancer-fight foot soldiers

Anybody feeling particularly energetic Saturday could have raced for the cure in the morning, stripped off to bike the Fremont Solstice Parade at noon, stopped by the Juneteenth parade and festival and later zipped over to Gas Works Park in time for the Solstice Pageant at 4 p.m.

The convergence of celebrations in Seattle this weekend made for a festive early start to summer, which officially begins Thursday morning.

But while Saturday was an opportunity for many to have fun and express themselves, there was a serious message underpinning the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. The 5K fun run, which begins and ends at Qwest Field, raises money for breast-cancer treatment and research.

About 1,200 of the 16,000 participants were survivors of breast cancer, while many others were running to honor family members who had died from the disease.

After the run, Eileen McDonnell, 44, said she was first diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago, when her oldest child, Keira, was 8 months old.

She had a mastectomy and was considered cured until two years ago, when the cancer returned to her chest wall. It was discovered just hours after she'd given birth to her third and youngest child, Braedon.

"It's great there's all this excitement," McDonnell said of the pageantry surrounding Saturday's run.

"But I ran for the people who are struggling and trying to live with the disease, and who are going to have a shorter life."

McDonnell said the return of the disease has made her rethink the way she lives each day.

At first, she fretted over her family's future and began buying Christmas presents for her children to open in years to come. But about a year ago, she realized she was getting too serious and depressed when her middle daughter Kendall, 5, told her she missed her mom of old.

So that night, McDonnell said she dragged the dining table into the living room and cooked up a stir-fry feast. After dinner, she and her children climbed on top of the table and danced. Since then, she said, she's tried to live each day with a much greater sense of levity. And so far, there have been no signs the cancer has spread beyond her chest.

Another who raced Saturday — for the eighth time — was Camron Emery, 15. Emery organized about 20 friends and family members to run with him and raised about $1,400 for the Komen foundation. He said his grandmother, aunt and godmother have all died from the disease.

One of the youngest entrants was 3-year-old Luke Amble, who entered the 1K children's run wearing a race T-shirt that came down to his shoe tops, much like a full-length dress. He started out holding a stroller but finished unassisted.

Luke was too shy to talk about his feat afterward but his older sister, Taylor Amble, 7, said she was completely out of breath by the end.

"I was one of the first people to cross the finish line," Taylor said proudly. "I was really near the front."

The children were there with their great-auntie Teek, Auntie Carol and Grandma Terry. Grandma Terry Amble said her own grandmother died from breast cancer and her mother from lymphatic cancer, or Hodgkin's disease.

Lynn Hagerman, executive director of the Komen foundation's Puget Sound affiliate, said Saturday's run is expected to raise about $1.8 million.

She said race-day expenses will account for about 16 percent of that total. Of the remainder, about three-quarters will go toward local breast-cancer screening, treatment and education and one-quarter toward national research.

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or

Breast cancer survivor Wilma Daniels, center, was one of more than 17,000 people who joined the Komen event Saturday. (MARK HARRISON / THE SEATTLE TIMES)