In a show of strength and courage, Stuttgart military community cancer warriors shared their stories and challenges about living with cancer and its debilitating effects during the third annual Run4Life relay Oct. 26 on Husky Field. The American Cancer Society estimates more than 1.5 million people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with some form of cancer this year and more than 500,000 of these people will die from the disease.
Cancer is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the relay was the main event during U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart’s observance of National Employment Disability Awareness Month. The relay, sponsored by the USAG Stuttgart Equal Employment Office and the Army Community Service Exceptional Family Member Program, served to raise awareness about cancer and commemorate the strength of cancer “warriors” who fight the disease and to remember those who fought bravely, said Eshe Faulcon, USAG Stuttgart EEO specialist and event coordinator.
Like a band of brothers and sisters, the cancer warriors and survivors gripped a banner on a cold and windy night as they took a “victory lap” around the Husky Field track. Luminarias decorated by family members were placed around the perimeter of the track in remembrance of their loved ones. For one cancer survivor diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, this year’s event is a celebration of life. “I finished chemo this past August … my hair has grown back, and now I’m able to do more things with my kids,” said Tracy Olivo. “I felt a lot of support and love from this community, and my goal now is to get the word out that there’s other people like me and try to bring everyone together to help support each other,” she said.
Nelson Moreno, a U.S. Africa Command financial budget analyst, was the guest speaker. Moreno, with his young son at his side, shared with the crowd his battle with stomach cancer from the day he was diagnosed to the present.
“After five years [of being cancer free] it’s still emotional to talk about it,” said Moreno. “I still have struggles with daily activities … lots of fatigue [and] side effects, but my best time is with my family.”
Run4Life allowed people such as Moreno to exchange stories about their medical care. It also allowed local agencies to promote their health and wellness programs and services. The ACS EFMP coordinator was on hand to promote the program and the ACS cancer support group. EFMP supports families with special medical or educational needs. During the event, 18 cancer warriors signed up to receive information about the cancer support group, said Danielle Denis, USAG Stuttgart EFMP manager. “I offered them information about the support group and encouraged them that it is a good place to learn and share their experiences.”
The ACS cancer support group meets the last Thursday of each month from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at ACS, Building 2915, Panzer Kaserne. “The goal [of the support group] is to break down the barriers and focus on the abilities, not the disabilities,” added Denis.
During October, ACS and the EEO Office also sponsored a diabetes cooking class, and workshops on hiring individuals with disabilities, conflict resolution and stress management, and financial planning for families with special needs.