Culture

This 5K Is Raising Awareness About Scary Effects Of A Common Surgery

Three years ago, one runner had a fibroid removed—a very common condition. The surgery, however, resulted in Stage 4 cancer.

running race

The third annual Slay Sarcoma Run/Walk 5K is on October 15, 2016. The story behind the origin of the race is one of every woman’s worst nightmares. Imagine that you are a healthy vibrant active woman, one that just ran a half marathon with a group of your girlfriends, and you need to have a relatively routine surgical procedure. You have a large fibroid, a very common condition, and your doctors advise you to remove it. Eight days after your surgery, while recovering, glad to have the procedure behind you and looking forward to proceeding with your life, you receive a call from one of your doctors. You didn’t just have a benign fibroid, but instead a hidden cancer within it, a type of sarcoma called a leiomyosarcoma (LMS). The instrument that was used to break up your fibroid into tiny little pieces before removing it, called the morcellator, likely caused your stage 1 cancer to spread to a stage 4 cancer. If that news is not bad enough, 85 percent of women with stage 4 LMS die within 5 years.

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Now imagine that you are not just a woman who recently ran a half marathon with your girlfriends that now has a stage 4 cancer; you have six children, the youngest being an 1 year old. In addition to being a mother of six, you are a physician, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and an activist in your community and for women’s health issues. When you and your physician husband reviewed the surgery paperwork, nowhere was it written that your fibroid may not be benign but possibly cancerous, and that use of the morcellator could potentially cause a curable cancer to be incurable—even though it’s happens to many other women. It is a story that seems unimaginable and impossible, yet it is the story of my friend Dr. Amy Reed, an anesthesiologist and immunologist, whose nightmare began in October 2013.

Since her cancer diagnosis, Amy has had multiple surgeries and rounds of radiation in a continued effort to fight her LMS. Leiomyosarcomas are rare, aggressive, malignant tumors that are often resistant to chemotherapy and radiation. In the last three years, Amy and her family have waged a battle against LMS on two different fronts. They have been working to increase FDA safety practices and ban the use of this tool so that no other woman has to experience having her cancer spread throughout her body. They have also been raising funds for LMS research and fighting sarcoma in the laboratory.

In 2014, Amy’s family organized the first Slay Sarcoma 5K to raise money specifically for LMS research. LMS is rare, so little research is devoted to its cure. In their first year, they raised $30,000 for cancer research. Last year, at the second annual Slay Sarcoma 5K, they raised $75,000. This year, they hope to do more, and this is your opportunity to get involved.

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While the main race event takes place just outside of Philadelphia, runners and walkers across the U.S. can participate virtually on the same day. Last year, runners joined in virtually from at least 10 states. This year, we are hoping for even more. When handed such a bad situation, many people would focus only on spending a lot of time with family—but not Amy. In between rounds of surgery and radiation, in between crossing off bucket list items with her husband and kids, Amy is fighting for both patient safety and cancer research.

My family of five will be joining Amy virtually from Los Angeles to do our 5K. I hope that you will do the same wherever you are. I hope that you will go to the Slay Sarcoma website to see how you can join the virtual run and support their research fund. I hope that together we can spread awareness and use our runner’s bodies and legs to help find a cure for this horrific cancer.