As I think about heading back to Washington, D.C. for my junior year at American University, I begin to think about all the fall events to look forward to, the Prevent Cancer 5K being one of my favorites. This will be my third Prevent Cancer 5k Walk/Run as a member of the American University Dance Team. But this year, my participation and the event itself will have an entirely new meaning for me.
Until recently, I was one of the few people who fortunately didn’t have that personal connection with cancer—the 5k was simply a great event for a great cause. To me, cancer has always seemed far away, an unthinkable illness. I’ve run the 5k the past two years to support the cause and raise money to help people get in front of the disease. However, this year’s race will hit much closer to home.
After turning in my final papers this past May, my childhood friends and I were welcomed back home with horrible news. Our close high school friend, Khaliq, had been diagnosed with lung cancer and it was spreading to his brain.
I met Khaliq in high school where, as a new student from Georgia, he quickly turned into one of the most well-known and well-liked people. He was a delight to be around, always had a smile on his face and worked incredibly hard in class. His positive attitude and work ethic sent him to Duke University, where he’s excelled for two years.
But all of that has been put on hold. This summer, doctors successfully removed three cancerous tumors from his brain. Next up is chemotherapy. As I look forward to returning to school, Khaliq looks forward to a day without a doctor’s appointment. As I look forward to running the 5K, he just hopes to have the strength be able to walk down the block. He did not start his summer internship and will not return to Duke in the fall. Tomorrow, next week, next year and the rest of his life are one big question mark.
Cancer can hit anyone. It hit one of my closest high school friends, a 20-year-old who seemed invincible because of the vivacious way he lives his life every single day.
It could hit my mother, my brother or even me.
Khaliq’s diagnosis made me think about the “what-ifs.” What if he had gone to the doctor sooner? What if we knew more about the early symptoms of cancers? What if we paid more attention to changes in our bodies and consulted a doctor about them? This year I’m incredibly proud to run for a cause that helps save lives each year by providing necessary research, education and screenings to millions across the country.
Cancer is an enormous, horrible, unthinkable “what-if.” The Prevent Cancer Foundation is special because it forces all of us to talk about and think about the unthinkable. It’s critical that we help them raise money so another friend is spared those awful words, “You have cancer.” I hope you join me in running (or walking) the Prevent Cancer 5k.
To follow my friend, Khaliq, and his optimistic, indescribably humorous outlook on his journey with cancer, follow @keepingupwiththekhancer on Instagram.
About the Prevent Cancer 5k Walk/Run and Health Fair:
The Prevent Cancer 5k Walk/Run will take place on Sunday, September 25, 2016, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The 2016 5k Walk/Run is an unofficial 5k route that will take participants around the beautiful Capitol Riverfront area with a start/finish inside Nationals Park. The event is open for family and friends of all ages and even dogs!
When participants cross the finish line back at the stadium, they can explore a health fair featuring more than 20 community partners promoting healthy living, providing free cancer screenings and healthy snacks and entertaining youngsters in the Kids Zone. Participants can also check out the Nationals’ dugouts and take a swing in the batting cages.
Click here to register and start fundraising so you can help Stop Cancer Before It Starts!™