Health

Family rallies around cancer patient during annual Especially for You race in Cedar Rapids

Mercy's annual fundraiser to take place Sunday

Janette Beer of Cedar Rapids and Barb Zahradnik of Shueyville are photographed at Beer’s home in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. Zahradnik is undergoing chemotherapy for her third bout of breast cancer, which is affecting her liver. Beer has amassed a team of 78 people who will run or walk in support of Zahradnik in the 2019 Especially for You race. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Janette Beer of Cedar Rapids and Barb Zahradnik of Shueyville are photographed at Beer’s home in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. Zahradnik is undergoing chemotherapy for her third bout of breast cancer, which is affecting her liver. Beer has amassed a team of 78 people who will run or walk in support of Zahradnik in the 2019 Especially for You race. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Barb Zahradnik has participated in Mercy Medical Center’s annual Especially for You race since its inception in 1991.

The 65-year-old Shueyville resident said it’s important to her to show support for patients and their families dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis. One year, when the 5k race was canceled due to lightning, she walked five miles home out of frustration at being unable to honor the individuals the event was created in homage to.

“It’s been very important (to me) to bring awareness to others,” she said. “That’s why you do it.”

Sunday marks the 29th annual Especially for You Race Against Breast Cancer in Cedar Rapids, which is expected to draw thousands to the starting line at Mercy Medical Center to fundraise for women’s health services.

It’s also the 29th time Zahradnik will participate in the event — but the first time a team has been formed in her honor.

Zahradnik was diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time this April after a routine checkup. The cancer, which was determined to be Stage 4, had metastasized to her liver.

Zahradnik’s stepdaughter, Janette Beer, of Cedar Rapids, formed an Especially for You team in her honor called Baarrrrrb’s Pirates of the Cureabbean, which boasts 78 members who hail from many aspects of Zahradnik’s life.

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“This isn’t going to be something that’s going to cure her cancer, but it might help someone else,” Beer said. “I know that this race is important to her, and it has been over the years.

“I wanted to create a team so that she could see all the people that care so much about her that would that would join and be there to rally around her.”

As of Monday, more than 13,800 people and about 450 teams were registered to participate in the race, Race Director Jeff Decker said. Organizers hope they can reach 14,000 individual registrations, as individual registration will remain open until 7:30 a.m., Sunday — the morning of the race. A registration table will be at the race.

Race details: Everything you need to know about Sunday’s Especially for You race

Funds raised by the event will benefit the Especially for You fund, which provides breast-care services, such as mammograms, and gynecological cancer screenings to area residents who can’t afford them.

Over the span of its existence, the fund has helped more than 10,000 individuals access around 21,000 services, according to Mercy Medical Center officials.

In 2018, the event raised $452,000 and drew more than 15,000 registrations.

Opening ceremonies on Sunday start at 7:45 a.m. The race kicks off at 8 a.m. at the starting line on Tenth Street SE, in front of the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center, next to the main hospital.

Decker said the starting line has been moved back this year to accommodate construction on Tenth Street SE. But the finish line again will be in NewBo.

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Race participants are invited to a post-race party at the finish line, which will include children’s activities, live music and a pancake breakfast.

‘She’s just a rock’

Zahradnik was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. She received treatment and was cancer-free until 2017, when doctors found metastatic inflammatory breast cancer in her lymph nodes, she said.

She was cancer-free again until her latest recurrence. Zahradnik is undergoing chemotherapy to address her most recent diagnosis, which doctors said is a triple negative breast cancer, she said.

“She’s just a rock,” Beer said. “She is just one tough cookie, and we’re just here to support her and to do what we can.”

Zahradnik said she has taken a “one-day-at-a-time” approach to her treatment, but has found a lot of support from loved ones in the past several months. So much so that Beer jokes a sign in the Hall Perrine Cancer Center limiting the number of visitors per patient is because of her family’s visits to Zahradnik during her treatments.

“If I didn’t have family support and a deep faith and friends, I’d be nowhere,” Zahradnik said.

Mercy’s annual fundraising event was founded in partnership with General Mills in 1991. The race and the fund was dedicated to the memory of Sandy Knight, a Whittier resident and General Mills employee who died of breast cancer that same year.

She had co-founded Mercy’s Especially for You After Breast Cancer support group before her death.

For more information about the race, visit especiallyforyourace.org.

If you go

Here’s everything you need to know for Mercy Medical Center’s 29th annual Especially for You Race Against Breast Cancer.

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THE RACE: Both the 5k run and the 1-mile, family friendly walk start at 8 a.m., which will kick off with opening ceremonies at 7:45 a.m.

The starting line is on 10th Street SE in front of the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center, next to Mercy Medical Center.

Both the 5k run and the 1-mile walk will end in NewBo. A course map can be found on the Especially for You website.

Race participants are encouraged to stay near the finish line for a post-race party that includes a pancake breakfast, live music and family-friendly activities.

REGISTRATION: Team registration is closed, but individuals can register until race day. Online registration is available at especiallyforyourace.org/efy/register.

On-site registration also is available at the following times and locations:

• Friday: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. in Mercy Lot No. 19

• Saturday: 8-11:30 a.m. in Mercy Lot No. 19

• Sunday: 7-7:30 a.m. at Mercy’s Hall-Perrine Cancer Center

SURVIVOR PHOTO: Just before the start of the race, breast cancer survivors are invited to participate in a group photo.

Individuals who wish to participate in the photo are asked to gather at the Hall Perrine Cancer Center parking lot, located at 701 10th St. SE, at 7:15 a.m. The group photo will be taken at 7:30 a.m.

For more information about the race, visit especiallyforyourace.org.

Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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