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Marathon team boosts spirits of cancer survivors

August 24, 2008 7:54:19 AM PDT
The Chicago Marathon is less than two months away.A number of runners are training with organizations that raise money and awareness for different disabilities. Imerman Angels is one example.

Imerman Angels is about giving one on one support to people with cancer. It was created by a young cancer survivor who wanted people to know they are never alone.

"I'm your age, I've survived your cancer, I'm the same gender, I beat it with the same drugs, they same treatments already and I know exactly what's involved in this fight and I'm living proof, I crossed the finish line," said 33-year-old Jonny Imerman, who started Imerman Angels five years ago. At the age of 26, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

"And I had never met anyone who had already survived the type of cancer I had, someone who could look at me in the eye and say, 'Look, I've beaten exactly your cancer,'" Imerman said.

Last year, they got a group of 70 runners to represent the organization. This is Imerman's first time training for the Chicago Marathon.

"Training is OK. I'm running about three times a week. I've sort of developed my own training program," said Imerman.

Thirty-six-year-old Michelle Kehrer has been training with Imerman Angels. She is hoping to finish in three and half hours. Four months ago, she finished her cancer treatment.

"I had stage 2 breast cancer, it was on the left. I had gone through a lumpectomy, a sentinel node biopsy and an auxiliary dissection. I was midway through chemotherapy and I found a lump on the right, and instead of having another biopsy, I elected to have a bilateral mastectomy and a reconstruction," Kehrer said.

This is not Kehrer's first marathon, but it's an important milestone for her.

"I am having so much fun," Kehrer said. "It's nice to be back, to be able to get in shape after the surgery. I had taken so much time off because I wasn't allowed to run or work out at all, so now I'm back running, I'm healthy; things are great."

And she said so much has to do with the support she got from Imerman Angels.

"I didn't know anyone at that time that had beaten and survived cancer," Kehrer said.

Cancer survivors are not the only ones receiving support. First-time marathon runner Jennifer Reed started out as a volunteer, and then six months later, her mother was diagnosed with cancer.

"And Jonny was the first call I made," she said. "He immediately paired her up with somebody, literally within eight hours."

Aaron Wahls is one of the volunteer coaches for Imerman Angels' marathon team. He says there are many cancer survivors training with the team.

"Most of them have already been cleared by their doctors. They've all done with their treatments, because I don't think there's no way that you could possibly go through with the way the chemo would make your body feel," said Wahls.

"I want everyone to see someone that's already passed the 26-mile marker that says, 'Look, I crossed it, I beat it. I get my life back and I'm gonna help you now get your life back," Imerman said.

This year, they have 115 runners. They will wear yellow Live Strong shirts with blue Imerman Angels on their chests.

For more information visit: www.chicagomarathon.com or www.imermanangles.org


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