By Sean Barron
The site of more than 10,000 people together for a common cause is always enough to make Pat Barber cry. They’re united in their determination to fight cancer while honoring survivors and those who died from the disease.
“I can’t get over how much this grows. It’s so organized, and everyone is so caring and courteous,” the Austintown woman and six-year cancer survivor observed.
Barber was among the estimated 11,000 people of all ages who took part in the ninth annual Panerathon 10K/2-mile Fun Run/Walk on Sunday that began and ended at the Covelli Centre downtown.
Main sponsors were Covelli Enterprises Inc. and the Mercy Health Foundation of the Mahoning Valley. PNC Bank sponsored a Kids Fun Run.
Since its inception, the Valley’s largest annual fundraising event has generated more than $2 million, and this year’s goal was $515,000, all of which will support the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center in St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, noted Candace Madden, an event coordinator.
Sunday’s Panerathon had more than 100 sponsors and in excess of 250 teams. Nearly 800 participants represented Youngstown State University-affiliated groups as well as Team Sweeney, Madden said
Also, about 20 area schools took part, organizers said.
“Each year, I am overwhelmed with emotion at the start of the race when I see people of the Valley come together for a purpose,” Sam Covelli, owner and operator of Covelli Enterprises, said in a statement. “This cause has a unique ability to rally a diverse mix of community leaders, business owners, volunteers, nonprofit groups, co-workers, friends, families and children.”
A lump on Barber’s breast soon led to a diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer. The rare condition often results when breast-cancer cells test negative for estrogen, progesterone and human epidural growth factor receptors and, unlike the more traditional form of the disease, do not respond to hormonal therapy, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website.
If this incurable form of breast cancer goes into remission but returns, it can affect the lungs, brain or both, explained Barber, who was one of about nine members of a team that represented Home Savings Bank. Nevertheless, “if you get past five years, the chances of it not coming back are much better,” she continued.
Barber’s three key coping strategies that she recommends to others with a diagnosis are relying on a strong faith in God, maintaining a positive attitude and finding humor where possible. To that end, she read the book “Be the Miracle: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible” by Regina Brett, a best-selling author and breast-cancer survivor who’s also a writer for the Cleveland Jewish News and a motivational speaker.
“I feel great. Every day is a blessing,” Barber added.
Cheering Barber on was her longtime friend and co-worker, Janet Guerrieri, who said she was highly impressed with Barber’s positive outlook and efforts to reach out to and assist others with the disease.
Many walkers and runners were on teams such as “Cousins for a Cause,” “The Iron Women,” “Patty’s Pack,” and “StronG,” as well as teams named in honor of individual survivors or those who lost their battles with cancer. Others, however, opted to participate solo on behalf of loved ones.
“I run for those who can’t,” said Christina Toth of Austintown, who ran the 10K race through downtown Youngstown and parts of Mill Creek Park in about 48 minutes to remember Mary Ann Horvath, her late aunt.
Horvath, died June 6, 2006, at age 40 from lung cancer. She left two children age 10 and 18.
Before her death, Horvath, whom Toth described as fun-loving, ran the former Wrangler’s Restaurant in North Jackson.
Toth, a 2001 Thiel College graduate and a teacher in Ravenna, also honored her grandmother, Evelyn Horvath, a breast-cancer survivor who sold Avon products for about 30 years.
In addition, some participants got a look inside a state-of-the-art mammography van that offers the same services as the Joanie Abdu Center. In the vehicle are a 3-D mammography unit, private changing rooms, a check-in area and waiting rooms.
“It’s a great diagnostic tool to find things” that could be precursors to cancer, said Julie Dulay, the center and van’s manager. “Early detection equates to better outcomes.”
The large vehicle averages between 20 and 24 monthly visits to community centers, businesses, physicians’ practices and other entities each month. The van also is available to women who might be unable to get to the center because of conflicting work schedules, lack of transportation or other barriers, she continued.
In addition, money from the Joanie’s Promise Fund provides life-saving screenings, early detection and support services regardless of a woman’s ability to pay, Dulay noted.
Also part of the festivities was a Kids Fun Run that offered two races, one each for boys and girls up to age 10, along a straight, quarter-mile track.