Cancer survivors and their supporters celebrate life, raise funds during annual 5K

Cancer survivors and their supporters participated in the 7th annual Give Cancer the Boot Survivorship 5K and 1 Mile Walk on April 6.


Misty skies didn’t dampen the spirits of the more than 900 runners and walkers who participated in the 7th annual Give Cancer the Boot Survivorship 5K and 1 Mile Walk on April 6 at Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center. Some raised their arms in triumph, others danced, and others cried as they crossed the finish line.


A cheerleading squad and volunteers greeted each runner and walker at the finish line with medals and carnations for survivors while the crowd cheered and a DJ played upbeat, triumphant music. 


“Last year the weather was perfect, yesterday the weather was perfect. This morning, there are clouds. But isn’t that just like cancer? It shows up when you don’t want it to show up,” said Robert Hromas, MD, FACP, acting president for UT Health San Antonio.


“I’ve had so many patients say, ‘Wait, I had plans. I didn’t have plans for chemo, didn’t plan on surgery. I didn’t plan on radiation.’ Well, this morning, cancer is on our schedule. We are here no matter the weather, no matter the time, no matter the schedule to give cancer the boot,” said Hromas, who helped kick off the event.


Hromas then shared a personal story about his mother-in-law, who lost her second battle with cancer. 


“If she were alive today, we could have saved her. We have new drugs. Our promise to you is that we will never give up finding new ways to kill cancer,” he said. “Give cancer the boot means you are standing firm in the midst of a terrible crisis; you are standing strong, not giving in and not giving up, and walking this walk, running this race because you want to raise money for the families of those who have cancer so they can take better care of their loved ones,” said Hromas. 


All proceeds — $40,000 this year — go to the cancer center’s Patient and Family Services program. The program provides crucial support services such as transportation to appointments and consultations with clinical dietitians and social workers.


Showing up


Ovarian cancer survivor Maria Gonzales, wearing a boxer’s robe in teal and white and a boot on her injured left ankle, came to the event to offer support to her fellow survivors. 


“It’s important to be out here today to learn about all different kinds of cancers and feel positive and motivated to try,” the 49-year-old retired school counselor said. Even though I can’t walk much, I still came. I’ve done half marathons in the past, but today, I’m showing up.”


Gonzales has had seven reoccurrences of ovarian cancer, and recently, the cancer moved into her brain, for which she’s had surgery. However, she said she remains hopeful. 


“My advice to others faced with cancer is to take it one day at a time and stay positive,” Gonzales said. 


The dawn of a new era


Mark Bonnen, MD, physician-in-chief for Mays Cancer Center, shared the center’s history. He said Mays Cancer Center was the brainchild of a group of community members who grew tired of watching families travel to receive cancer care. He said it is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center started by community members. 


“They took a stand to say cancer will not take more from our loved ones than it has to. Over the last 40 years, Mays Cancer Center has helped thousands in our local community survive cancer. But Mays has also become a leader in oncology internationally and in developing new drugs and techniques that are part of the standard of care for treatment worldwide,” he said. 


Bonnen said the new UT Health San Antonio Multispecialty and Research Hospital, connected to Mays Cancer Center by the newly constructed Tom C. Frost Skybridge, brings “the dawn of a new era.” 


“This state-of-the-art, 144-bed facility will allow the dedicated professionals at Mays Cancer Center to seamlessly integrate research and patient care in a best-in-class, first-of-its-kind facility in our region facility.  So, exciting new things,” Bonnen said.


To learn more about Mays Cancer Center, visit Race results can be found on the Athlete Guild website. 

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