Racing Against Cancer

Jackie Newkirk

Jackie Newkirk, who has lung cancer, works out at UNC’s Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute, as part of her prescribed regimen to help deal with the effects of the disease and treatments for it. Photo by Barry LaPoint.

If Jackie Newkirk doesn’t finish the mile fitness walk that’s part of UNC’s Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute’s Run Against Cancer on July 3, it won’t be because she lacks spirit. It will be because she has lung cancer.

Newkirk, from Johnstown, was diagnosed with the disease in May 2008. She was told she had 18-24 months to live.

"I was supposed to be dead by last month," Newkirk said. "I’m not dead and I feel wonderful."

She attributes how good she feels in part to RMCRI’s rehabilitation program, which she started six months after her diagnosis and continues to attend three days a week.

The institute is the only comprehensive cancer rehabilitation facility of its kind, providing free individualized prescriptive exercise and dietary intervention in the recovery of cancer treatment-related symptoms.

"It’s helped me physically; my stamina and flexibility are so much better," Newkirk, who has undergone unsuccessful chemotherapy, radiation and drug treatment, said. "And the (student) trainers are fabulous. They’re really great kids."

Students in UNC’s Sport and Exercise Science degree programs serve supervised internships as trainers for the institute.

Newkirk also said that, along with the cancer support group she belongs to, the institute has been good for her mental and emotional well-being.

"The social part of RMCRI is important, too, because you see other people in the same boat as you out there doing things," she said. "I intend to go until I die."

Newkirk is looking forward to beginning a new type of radiation treatment. Until then she says she’ll continue her positive attitude about her disease and the impact it’s had on her life.

"You know, cancer has been a blessing to me," she said. "Since being diagnosed, I’ve healed relationships with people important to me, found my faith, married a prince of a husband and enjoyed a lot of traveling."

It’s helped me slow down," said the former critical care nurse. "I now have time for other important things: joining book clubs, spending more time volunteering on church projects and seeing my grandchildren more."

- Gary Dutmers

About the Race Against Cancer Fundraiser
The Race Against Cancer, which includes a 5k run and mile fitness walk, precedes the Greeley Independence Stampede parade on Saturday, July 3. The race begins at 7:15 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1500 10th Ave. Registration fees are $25 for adults and $15 for children if made before 5 p.m. July 2 and $30 for adults and $20 for children the day of the race. Registration is available at Bell’s Running, 3620 W. 10th Street, or at http://www.active.com/running/greeley-co/race-against-cancer-2010. All proceeds will go to RMCRI to help fund its cancer rehabilitation program.

Last year’s race attracted more than 1,000 participants and raised approximately $20,000 for the RMCRI’s program.

According to RMCRI Director Carole Schneider, it takes approximately 85 volunteers to pull off a race for 1,000 people and additional volunteers are needed for this year’s event. To help, call the RMCRI at 351- 1876.

For more information about the institute, visit its website.