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Federal Way women organize annual 5k in honor of late husbands
When Diana Stewart and her husband Bob received the cancer diagnosis, they were shocked.
A teacher and coach at Federal Way High School, he had mesothelioma, a rare cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, heart, chest and/or abdomen. About 3,000 people each year are diagnosed, Stewart said.
Her husband died in 2008, nine months after his diagnosis. Though he had surgery to remove the lining of his lungs, the cancer was in his ribs and spread to his spine, leaving him completely paralyzed for the last month of his life, Stewart said.
On July 4, the third annual Miles for Meso Washington Memorial 5k will honor the memory of Stewart’s husband and all Washington citizens who have lost the battle with mesothelioma.
“It’s a labor of love,” Stewart said.
Mesothelioma is often caused by exposure to asbestos, found in many things, including once-popular popcorn ceilings, floor tiles, shipyards and furnaces, Stewart said. The cancer can also take 30 or 40 years to develop, after exposure, she said.
“It strikes when you least expect it,” said Pat Dyhrman.
Diana Stewart partnered with Dyhrman and Pat Hatley to start the 5k to honor their husbands, all active in the Federal Way community, and who all lost the battle with mesothelioma. Hatley’s husband Bud was the athletic director at Federal Way High School. Dyhrman’s husband Dick was a geologist at Weyerhaeuser.
“It is a nice, honoring memory to keep going for our husbands,” Stewart said.
Every year, the planning gets a little easier, Dyhrman said, but it is still difficult because the race remembers the loved ones they miss.
“We always kind of wonder if we have the energy,” she said.
The race raises money for mesothelioma research and also raises awareness in the community, Stewart said. Because it is a rare cancer, not many doctors treat it, she said. The race is an opportunity for people to get information about the cancer, find doctors who treat it and learn about the cause.
“We feel very strongly about it because asbestos can be eliminated,” Stewart said.
Often the cancer is harsh and the quality of life with mesothelioma is very low, she said. It is hard to function because it is very painful, but painkillers aren’t effective, she said.
All the money generated by the race, through registration fees and monetary donations, will go to the Mesothelioma Foundation.
Putting on the race costs about $4,000, Stewart said. Stewart and Dyhrman fund research by paying for the race each year, with the help of a $1,000 donation from the Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation, she said.
The race is also made possible by all the donations from local businesses and community volunteers, Stewart said.
Just months before the first run in 2011, only 30 or 40 people were registered for the event, Stewart said. But on race day, around 200 people gathered at the Federal Way Community Center to walk or run for mesothelioma, she said.
“It was so emotional,” Stewart said. “It was all I could do to keep from crying, seeing the support.”
The first race exceeded expectations, Dyhrman said.
Former athletes from Federal Way High School come to remember and honor their coach and athletic director, Stewart said.
The Federal Way Community Center is also involved in planning the event, and should Stewart, Dyhrman and Hatley ever step aside, the center will continue hosting the event, Stewart said.
The race begins at 9 a.m. at the Federal Way Community Center, located at 876 S. 333rd St. on July 4. Registration for children and youths 17 and under is $15, for 18 and older $35. The race will feature a memorial board where people can add the names of their loved ones who died of mesothelioma.
A free brunch is served after the race, though donations are accepted. Participants can also purchase raffle tickets and win prizes donated by local businesses. For more information, visit www.meso5kwa.com.