Thursday, April 26, 2001

Cancer event

Busy? Just remember Anne's race

        If you're not doing anything Saturday, you might want to run out and save somebody's life. Literally.

        You still have time.

        It costs $25 and, as the credit card commercial says, the rewards are priceless. You might, for instance, run into Anne Garifalos. She'll be at Sawyer Point with about 10,000 others for this year's Komen Race for the Cure.

        Anne is already registered. She's very organized, plus her cancer takes up more time than she'd like. Diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 1997, Anne has chemo every Wednesday. Right now she's on Herceptin, a drug that was not available when she was first joining the battle.

        And boy, has she battled.

        A lumpectomy, mastectomy, a failed breast reconstruction. She has had six regimens of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and four series of radiation. She has been bald three times.

        “The good thing is every time my hair grows back, it's dark and curly,” she says. “Not so much gray.”

        The good thing.

        She finds good things more often than you'd imagine possible. My whine reflex would have kicked in a long time ago. Maybe with the almost constant nausea. Or the pain. Anne is cheerful, but not unbearably so.

        Her bones — “which look like Swiss cheese about now” — ache, and she wishes she could hang around longer. Her eventual plan is to be cremated and her ashes taken “home” to Macon, Ga., for a big, catered celebration of life. “The price of admission,” she says, “is a recipe or a story about me.” Then Jim, her husband of 30 years, will publish them all in a book for their three kids.

The church lady
        Anne is a church lady, in every sense. In the comic sense, she and some friends dress up in impossibly prissy old hats and gloves and dresses to visit people who are having a rough day — anything from a fender-bender to a job promotion they didn't get. Every Friday, the church ladies “Bob-sit” for a man with brain cancer.

        “We just try to make people laugh, stir up their endorphins,” Anne says.

        Then there's the real church lady part of Anne. She expects to go to heaven, told her pastor to be sure to have a fork at the altar during her service. That signifies all the times we've been told to “save our forks after a good meal. You just know something better is coming along.”

        So, let's say you'd like to spend this Saturday outside. It's supposed to be sunny and warm. And let's say you'd rather not dig up your flower beds or wash the car. Let's say you'd just like to walk around. Or maybe pick up the pace enough to burn off some calories.

        Let's assume you wouldn't mind helping to find a cure for breast cancer for the next woman who believes she will one day meet God but who isn't in a hurry.

        You can register 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today in the lobby of the Westin, downtown, or 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and Friday at Bob Roncker's Running Spot/New Balance, 1993 Madison Road, O'Bryonville. You can also sign up online at

        There's still time to be part of this year's Race for the Cure. A busy weekend? Maybe it will help to remember Anne Garifalos — church lady, friend, swim coach, school teacher, Brownie leader, soccer mom, seamstress and wife.

        Her time is running out.

        E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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