As September nears and the kids head back to school, I’m getting ready for the biggest month of the year for the ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk Series. During my 11+ years at ZERO, September has signified Prostate Cancer Awareness Month (PCAM). Each September, I look forward to hitting the road and meeting existing, new, or soon-to-be members of the ZERO family.
My first PCAM is still one of my favorites. There, I met some of ZERO’s long-time fundraisers — Meghan, Tara, and Cheryl Nikituk — who had recently lost their dad to prostate cancer. Over a decade later, they’re still our top fundraisers for our D.C. area event every year.
When I was hired by ZERO more than a decade ago, I organized the inaugural ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk (at the time, it was called the Dash for Dad). I was stressed, and thought September was crazy! But boy, was I wrong. Fast forward to the present day, when in just 36 days ZERO will be hosting 24 Run/Walks nationwide! (Find an event in your area from August 24 through September 28.)
Organizing 24 races in 36 days makes me think of an iconic line in one of my favorite movies — when Dorothy, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz say, “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” I think that “Raleigh and Boston and Austin, oh my!” has a nice ring to it, don’t you?
One of my favorite questions I get asked when I tell people how many races ZERO is hosting in September is, “Do you have to go to all of them?” The answer is no, BUT I will be hitting the road each weekend within that 36-day time period, so that I can spend time with members of the ZERO family, hear stories of others who have been impacted by prostate cancer, and make sure new faces have a warm welcome.
Each year, it’s hard to choose which Run/Walks to attend, since I want to be at all of them! I like to mix it up and try to attend new events each year so that I can meet urology practice partners and their staff, and spend time with our Chapter Directors who are so connected to their local communities.
This year, I am excited to head to Cleveland with ZERO advocate Stephanie and join Team Tutu, as well as spend time with SouthWest Urology’s staff — many of whom I’ve never met. Then it’s off to Tyler, Texas to kick off the 2019 Run/Walks in the Lone Star State. There, I’ll have the pleasure of witnessing Tracy Crites, ZERO’s new Texas Chapter Director, at her inaugural event, spend time with Jim and Cynthia McAndrew, and attend a volunteer party the night before the race. The McAndrew’s put their heart and soul into the event through hosting a Survivor Breakfast and a Volunteer Kick-Off meeting.
After Texas, I’ll heed my Midwestern roots at our St. Louis event. I’ve attended this Run/Walk many times in the past and it is always an event full of wonderful family teams, especially Jordan’s Cancer Slayers who for years have always made me cry on race day.
The following weekend, our signature ZERO Run/Walk event is held in Baltimore. I’m fortunate that I can enjoy a Saturday morning with my family, watching my boys play soccer and then drive up to Baltimore to see the team at Chesapeake Urology Associates (CUA). Last year, Dr. Sandy Siegel was diagnosed with prostate cancer — which makes the race even more personal for the CUA team. I love spending time at packet pick-up, having lunch at the Greene Turtle, and chatting with Dr. Siegel. Race day in Baltimore is just amazing — to see the passion from the family teams, the survivors, and of course, the CUA team photo.
My final travel in September takes me to Knoxville, Tennessee for the inaugural event with Tennessee Urology Associates. I can’t wait to meet some of our newest ZERO Champions and work with the team to grow Knoxville into a future Run/Walk powerhouse!
I may not be hitting the West Coast or the Southeast this September, but plans are already underway to make sure I do visit our advocates, champions, and partners in those regions soon. The entire ZERO staff rallies around PCAM. We all have a story like mine on where they are headed and who they can’t wait to see. Stay tuned to ZERO’s Journey to ZERO Blog for more from our staff and other PCAM updates.
It’s going to be a busy, fun-filled month ahead. The awareness that these events and PCAM bring to the cause of prostate cancer make all the late nights and delayed flights so very worthwhile. I can’t wait to see all of my ZERO family in their communities in the next few weeks!