Forty-nine year old Melissa Reuland calls herself “the least athletic person” you’ll ever know, and 31-yr. old Kristen Berset admits she doesn’t really like running all that much. Yet the two women will be part of a four-person relay team at this year’s Baltimore Running Festival. Why? The relay represents a victory lap for these two and their teammates, Laine Malcotti and Julie Lanahan. Each is a breast-cancer survivor. The team name? Treasured Chests.
Each of the women has a story to tell. Kristen’s began at age 27 when a mis-diagnosed “cyst” led to a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy. Laine’s history includes diagnosis in 2008, which resulted in a bilateral mastectomy followed by six rounds of chemo. Julie, a mother of four, was diagnosed at age 38 and endured a double mastectomy and follow-up treatments. Melissa received her diagnosis at age 41, had a lumpectomy, radiation and four years of tamoxifen, along with the removal of her ovaries. She is now 49.
Melissa is the newest member of the team, having replaced Carrie Wells, who unfortunately suffered a recent fall and broken ribs. It was volunteering with Carrie at the Hopkins Avon Breast Cancer Center that led her to the team. While she doesn’t consider herself an athlete, running this relay is very much a part of her recovery strategy, which includes stepping up to challenges.
Laine, on the other hand, has been a runner “since I could tie my shoes,” she says. A lifelong Baltimore-area resident, Laine considers running the relay a special trip down memory lane. “I loved the Colts, the Os, the Ravens. I went to Loyola and JHU. I lived in Charles Village and Federal Hill. So many memories as I run each mile!” she says.
Julie was inspired to join the team after training with the Ulman Cancer Fund’s Cancer to 5k program. “Last year, the Baltimore Running Festival was my first 5k,” she says. “This year I wanted to run a bit further, but I knew I wasn’t ready for the half marathon. The relay is the perfect distance.”
And Kristen came to the team through a Facebook posting. “I felt that doing a team with other women who have been through a similar life changing experience would be the most rewarding way to do something I don’t like to do,” she says. “Besides, six or seven miles is far more palatable than 26.2!”
Participating as survivors makes the event that much more meaningful to the ladies, none of whom have formally met yet. “Before I couldn’t have done this,” says Laine. “It is very hard for me to be identified as someone who has had cancer. I think I am ready for it.”
So if you’re at the start line, or cheering on from the sidelines, look for this special group of women. They’ll be the ones with the big smiles on their faces as they show breast cancer just how it’s done.
Have you run the relay before? Does your team have a back story?