When Holly Shoemaker was diagnosed with stage III melanoma nearly 13 years ago at age 34, she was determined not
to lose her identity as an amateur athlete. “I couldn’t
accept that I would have to give up all the things I
loved,” Shoemaker says. So, with her doctor’s cautious
blessing, Shoemaker, who lived in Arlington, Virginia,
continued training for the Marine Corps Marathon while receiving
chemotherapy. Not only did she complete the marathon, she found that
the exercise helped reduce her pain and fatigue.
HOW YOU CAN VOLUNTEER
Livestrong at the YMCA provides a 12-week
training program to help people with cancer
regain their fitness.
The International Breast Cancer Paddlers’
Commission provides a directory of dragon boat
teams for breast cancer survivors in the U.S. and
throughout the world. ibcpc.com/members
Local cancer centers and hospitals often run
exercise programs for cancer survivors. Contact
your cancer center’s patient resource center for
information about programs.
Anyone can help a survivor train for a
race, says Amanda Kesler, Cancer to
5K program coordinator and a Hodgkin
lymphoma survivor. Here are some tips:
• Accompany the survivor on training
walks and runs.
• Talk, sing or joke to help keep the
survivor’s mind off a tough workout day.
• Carry water bottles, snacks and
jackets when training and during
Do you know an extraordinary
person who’s giving his or her
time to the cancer cause?
Email Volunteer@Cancer TodayMag.org.
We may feature the person in a future issue.
PHOTO BY JAMES H. SHOEMAKER
BE A TRAINING
Inspired to help others in the same situation, Shoemaker founded Cancer to 5K
( ulmanfund.org/cancerto5k), a free
12-week training program for cancer
survivors with a goal to run or walk in
a 5K race. “I thought, ‘If I could have
used this, there’s somebody else out
there who could [too],’” Shoemaker says.
Cancer to 5K is for survivors of all
ages and abilities, regardless of treat-
ment status. The program’s approach
reflects research showing that exercise
during and after cancer treatment may
help improve quality of life, reduce risk
of recurrence and improve prognosis.
The Cancer to 5K program supports
around a dozen 20- to 30-person teams
across the country. Teams include vol-
unteer coaches to ensure safe training,
as well as other volunteers to provide
support, pacing and encouragement to
race participants. Survivors who do not
live near a training group can receive
support and coaching via an online train-
ing program. The Ulman Cancer Fund for
Young Adults, which runs the Cancer to
5K program, covers the costs of training,
race registration and gear, including a
new pair of running shoes for each first-
Shoemaker, who now lives in Wetumpka,
Alabama, and does volunteer coaching
remotely for the program, says that doing
a 5K can be empowering for survivors,
many of whom may feel betrayed by their
bodies. “I know I felt that way,” she says.
“[Running the marathon] was that very
cathartic moment of [feeling], ‘OK, I believe in you again. I believe in my body
again.’” —BRENDA CONAWAY