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Sunday, September 21st is the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s annual 5k Walk/Run, and I will again be participating, along with my family and friends. Not because I have to, but because I want to. In fact, I need to.

Why? Because more than half a million people die from cancer each year. Last year, my sister Rita became one of those half million. The cancer stats I’ve quoted for years became very real when Rita was diagnosed with lung cancer at the end of March. Three very short weeks later, she was gone.

Team Rita

A smoker for over 45 years, Rita half heartily tried to quit many times. Even with the regular urging of her siblings, husband, children and grandchildren, she just never could quit. When I was 21, Rita was told she was in the first stages of emphysema – I immediately quit smoking. That was all I needed to hear. One by one, all of my sisters quit smoking, but Rita kept puffing away.

Rita spent the last year of her life taking care of her husband, who himself was waging a battle against neck cancer. She was so worried about losing him that she paid no attention to what was going on with her. She knew she was sick, but was “putting it off” until she knew Mike was okay. Mike is still with us because of the excellent care she provided. If only she’d given herself some.

One year later, we all feel the pain as much as we did on April 18th when she drew her last breath. One year later, her children are just as sad that their children, who still post loving messages to their grandma on her Facebook page, are growing up without her.

So why am I participating in the Prevent Cancer 5k Walk/Run? Because I want to continue to raise awareness about the prevention – and early detection – of cancer. If forming Team Rita helps to educate one person, save one life – especially those of my sister’s children or grandchildren – I’ll be at the front of the pack.

Help save lives. Register, start a team and fundraise for the Prevent Cancer 5k Walk/Run.