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University Beat

Running for Research at Miles for Moffitt

(Story has been updated with Miriam Zimm's status for Miles for Moffitt in the third paragraph)

When Miles for Moffitt steps off on Saturday, May 10, Miriam Zimms will once again be there.

A bout with breast cancer four years ago didn’t stop her. Neither will last year’s bone cancer scare that saw surgeons remove a large section of her pelvis and replace it with a bone from a cadaver.

"I know that it will be an incredibly different type of walk for me this year because of the fact that I don’t have full mobility and I cannot fully walk on both my legs, so it will be a very different experience," said Zimms, who's undergone six months of physical therapy. She plans to walk about 300 feet or so at the event using either crutches or a walker, and her husband will push her the rest of the one mile in her wheelchair.

She's taking part, not just for herself but also for her loved ones. Her team of walkers and runners, the Guatemalan Globes, is named for her birth country and for the four other women in her family who’ve also battled breast cancer, including her mother, who died from the disease in 1992.

An estimated seven thousand participants are expected to join Miriam in taking part in Miles for Moffitt, a series of races and walks that raises money for research at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center. 

http://youtu.be/XzOPlcuXr3w

"I’m a two-time cancer survivor and although I’m cancer-free and I hope to intend to stay that way, we rely on the hope and the hope is in the research, and along with all the love and care we get, but the hope is in the research to find the cure," Zimms said.

Moffitt, an underwriter for University Beat, has seen the event grow from 1,200 attendees who raised $55,000 in 2006 to 6,000 people who raised almost $350,000 last year.

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Credit Moffitt Cancer Center
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Moffitt Cancer Center
Priscilla & former Sen. Connie Mack, both cancer survivors, join Evan Longoria and Miles for Moffitt co-creator, Karen Dalton, at the 2013 event

In total, Miles for Moffitt has raised almost $1.5 million, and thanks to the event’s sponsors, 100% of entrants’ registration fees goes directly to Moffitt research.

"This is a big deal, I mean, Miles from Moffitt has the ability to change the lives of many people, and why not be a part of it?" asked Joe Meterchick, regional president for title sponsor, PNC Bank.

According to Meterchick, almost 150 PNC employees took part last year.

"It’s fun to see because everybody’s got a suit and tie on during the week, and it’s kind of neat to see them out there with a PNC Miles for Moffitt shirt, just working hard and enjoying it," he said.

But at the core, it’s about helping fight a horrible disease.

"The truth of it is it does affect everyone, it affects our people, somebody in our group of employees or associates, their families, maybe them, have been affected by cancer," he added.

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Credit Moffitt Cancer Center
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Moffitt Cancer Center
A Moffitt researcher 'advertises' their work at Miles for Moffitt

The money raised each year is divided among a small group of researchers singled out for their work by a panel of Moffitt officials. That includes Dr. Susan Vadaparampil, who was awarded $25,000 in 2007 for her work on genetic counseling and testing.

"This job is a lot of patience and time and hard work, and we don’t often get that instant kind of, 'we think you’re on to something; we think you have a good idea, here, take the money and run with it,'" she said.

And for a beginning researcher, like Vadaparampil was at the time, that kind of seed money can pay dividends.

"I was able to take that money I was awarded from the Miles for Moffitt, and use it for a few pilot studies that went on to allow me to apply for a bigger grant," she said.

"Where now, I’m actually conducting a...clinical study where I’m testing an intervention that I developed to increase [use] of genetic counseling among breast cancer survivors who are at an increased risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer," Vadaparampil explained.

As complicated as that is, that’s the kind of research that can help women with a family history of cancer like Miriam Zimms.

And while Miriam knows completing her one-mile walk just half a year after major surgery is going to be a challenge, she says the sense of community that Moffitt provides her will help her push on.

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Credit Moffitt Cancer Center
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Moffitt Cancer Center
Participants line the stage for the 2013 Gerdau Survivor Tribute Celebration.

"I like to use to use the words “cancer champions,” I think we’re champions, not survivors, I think we’re champions, and that’s what I think we’ll all be out there at Miles for Moffitt is champions, running or walking the race in whatever capacity we can," she said.

Miles for Moffitt takes place Saturday, May 10 on the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus and features 1, 3.1 (5K) and 5 mile runs and walks, as well as a kid’s dash with Raymond of event sponsor, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Gerdau Survivor Tribute Celebration.