BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
One Jackson Heights resident is training for a competition in Yankee Stadium, where she will be taking on her biggest rival – cancer.
Evelyn Gomez will run in the Aug. 3 Damon Runyon 5K at Yankee Stadium to support cancer research. The race marks her return to the track after a decade-long hiatus from running, as well as her first participation in a cancer charity since her own diagnosis and recovery.
Gomez was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in late 2010, just after giving birth to her son.
“Like many new moms, I had been having ups and downs with breast feeding, and I had just gotten to a place where I felt like I could say ‘I got this,’” Gomez said. “When all of a sudden, I had to stop nursing because of tests and eventually chemo.”
“I needed to nurture my child, and all of a sudden I couldn’t,” she added.
Gomez fought the disease with months of chemotherapy and ultimately had a mastectomy that removed the tumor. She said she began to consider the impact cancer had not only on her own life, but on many friends and family members as well, and as she became healthier, she decided to join the larger fight against cancer.
“It had been enough time since I had been diagnosed, and I was feeling good and healthy,” Gomez said. “I wanted to do one of these charitable events.”
Gomez, who works as a law librarian, has a data-oriented mind. She said that she wanted to join a research-focused charity, and participate in an event that put money directly towards the study of cancer.
“I wanted to support a charity that seemed like it was actually making strides,” Gomez said. “I’m sticking by the old adage, ‘Slow and steady wins the race.’ It’s raising money that counts.”
The race, which will take runners around the perimeter of the field at Yankee Stadium, is a fundraising event for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. One hundred percent of the money raised funds work by cancer researchers nationwide to make breakthroughs in preventing, diagnosing and treating all types of cancer.
According to Meghan McCurdy, spokeswoman for Damon Runyon, the event has raised almost $3 million since 2009, which has coincided with Damon Runyon’s clinical trials of new drugs and treatments for melanoma, advanced thyroid cancer, leukemia and several other cancers, and the development of new imaging techniques for diagnosis.
Gomez has been training in Jackson Heights’ Travers Park in the morning, enjoying the company of a tai-chi group and other early risers, and scoping routes that will imitate the ramps and stairs she will have to surmount in Yankee Stadium.
Gomez said that besides supporting cancer research, she is excited about this event because of its setting.
“I’m a girl, we’re not allowed in baseball – it’s the only way I’m getting on the field in Yankee Stadium anyways,” she said.
According to the National Cancer Institute, about one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetimes. The five-year survival rate is 89.2 percent, although statistics vary widely by stage of detection and type of cancer.
To those still in the throes of a cancer diagnosis, Gomez advised reasoned positivity.
“Be your own champion,” Gomez said, urging peers to build a strong relationship with their doctors and not to hesitate to ask questions. “I’m still here and I’m still pressing for it so the important thing is to stay positive.”
Now, she added, “It’s time to take the field and make a difference.”
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, email@example.com or @JNStrawbridge.