It was a beautiful morning last Saturday at the ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk in Cleveland, with overcast clouds and a light breeze – perfect race day weather! The Southwest Urology team was busy decorating tables and setting up signage, and you could just feel the excitement from their staff; we all could not wait for everyone to start arriving!
Being fairly new to ZERO, the Cleveland race was my first ZERO Run/Walk. I didn’t know exactly what to expect the morning to look like. As participants started arriving, I quickly started hearing stories from survivors, family members, and vendors about past races and how awesome they were.
The first people I met on-site were prostate cancer survivor Jeff Csokmay and his wife and caretaker Stephanie. This was their first race too, as Jeff just recently became a survivor. It was just the two of them at first, but it quickly felt to them like they were part of the ZERO family, as they got to connect with others with smiles on their faces. I also got to meet longtime ZERO Champion Stephanie Mueller, who runs with her Team Tutu every year in honor of her dad, Steve, who is a prostate cancer survivor. Stephanie and her friend – a first-time participant and prostate cancer survivor – Jess, greeted me with a giant hug first thing. It was fantastic to finally put faces to the names of these wonderful Champions I’d been hearing so much about, and I felt an instant connection with Stephanie as we chatted and took some photos together. I was inspired by her fantastic work, passion, and dedication.
During the race I had the pleasure of helping Claudio Zanin, CEO of Southwest Urology, with the morning announcements. Boy, does he know how to thank a crowd and get them excited for the race to start! As we waited for the race to kick-off, so many people came up to the ZERO table to sign the survivor banner, and to tell me their story. It was the stories that I heard and the smiling faces that I saw, that made me see what these races mean to survivors, caregivers, vendors, family members, and friends. How impactful they can be. They wait all year for this one morning where they get to see other Run/Walk participants that they’ve met through the years, get updates on they’ve been doing, and rally around the people they love.
As the race finished and we were packing, I took a moment to look around and to soak up the feelings of hope and inspiration. I get to work at ZERO everyday in the fight to end prostate cancer, but it’s here, meeting these amazing people, that continues to light that fire in me.
A couple shoutouts to some teams I got to meet and connect with: thank you team Bob’s Cancer Beaters, Musky Warriors, Team Doc, Dave’s Army, and Jim “Superman” Shuttera for sharing your stories with me and bringing out huge teams, each filled with enormous passion! Thank you to Stephanie and Team Tutu for your warm welcome to your city!
I also want to thank the city of Cleveland and Southwest Urology for welcoming me with open arms and making a statement that morning: that we are going to continue to fight, TOGETHER!