Runner with a cause

by Patti Henderson
and Dan Starnes

“For cancer survivors, birthdays are particularly special,” says Brenda Ladun.

At the end of this month Brenda will celebrate another happy birthday. January 30th will also mark the sixth time that she and close to 1,000 other runners will gather in a race against cancer. “Before cancer, running was drudgery. After cancer, it became a gift,” says Brenda. It became a way for her to clear her mind and body.

Brenda publicly fought two bouts of breast cancer – the first time in 2001 and then again in 2007. We watched as she bravely and stoically sat at her ABC 33/40 anchor desk reporting to us the nightly news all the while enduring chemotherapy. “My faith, my family and my friends helped me through the battle. I had to lean on God and listen to his word to get through it. I found new strength,” says Brenda.

Brenda’s treatment consisted of major surgery, then chemotherapy. During her treatments Brenda said, “I could look ahead and see others who were just one step ahead of me.” This inspired her to keep going. She added, “Cancer is like a marathon. You have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and stay in there each day and persevere.” In turn, Brenda inspired many people across the state to keep fighting their own battle.
Within a year of her surgery, Brenda ran in a marathon. To date, she has completed five marathons and five half-marathons.

With the support and encouragement of her bosses, Brenda zeroed in on a cause where they all knew she could have a profound impact. “I have wonderful bosses who encouraged me to do this. Thanks Mike Murphy and Garry Kelley!”

In 2004 she founded the Brenda Ladun 8k Conquer Cancer Run. Now in its sixth year, the race has raised close to $200,000 for the American Cancer Society. In addition Brenda has written a book called Getting Better, Not Bitter: A Spiritual Prescription for Breast Cancer that goes beyond the medical jargon and takes on more of a “big-sister-stand-by-your-side” approach that she feels a lot of cancer patients need. “I wanted to do everything I could to help fight the disease, by raising money, focusing on staying healthy and early diagnosis.”

The race is hosted by the American Cancer Society’s Junior Executive Board and is presented by ABC 33/40 and St. Vincent’s One Nineteen. It raises funds for cancer research and patient support groups. “We are getting closer and closer to a cure everyday. I have been in the research lab at UAB, and it is phenomenal. Everyday I hear of more and more cancer miracles all around us,” says Brenda.

Currently there is a debate brewing over the best protocol for women’s health care. Brenda’s opinion, based on her invaluable personal experience, might be worth listening to. “My advice is take time for your own health, so you can be here to take care of the ones you love. Early detection is the best defense against cancer. Keep those regular doctor appointments, and get checked. Get your mammograms and do a self breast exam. Any time you feel something has changed, or you feel more tired, see the doctor. Listen to your body.”

Besides being a local news anchor for ABC, published author and breast cancer awareness spokesperson, Brenda is also married to Doug Bell, the mother of three boys, actively involved in their school, a Sunday school teacher at Hunter Street Baptist Church, and trains for marathons. She has won numerous awards for her journalistic coverage of breast cancer including the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation National Media Award, the American Cancer Society Life Inspiration Award, the American Cancer Society award for Best TV Coverage, and the Edward R. Murrow Award.

There are other ways to support the Conquer Cancer Run if you can’t actually run. For a donation, you can have someone’s name printed on the back of the t-shirt worn at the event. This is a good way to remember or honor a loved one or friend who has battled cancer.

The Brenda Ladun Conquer Cancer Run has nearly tripled in size in the last three years, causing volunteers to move the race to bigger locations. This year, the race’s route will begin at St. Vincent’s One Nineteen facility and wind throughout the Greystone community. For more information or to sponsor the event, contact Kate Kelley at the American Cancer Society at 205-930-8869.

To register online for the race go to www.active.com ; keyword search, Brenda Ladun.

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