Kickin’ Cancer! Fund
My parents held hands for the first time when they were paired up for a kindergarten dance performance. They held hands for the last time on August 20, 2000, when my Mom died just 29 days after being diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer. Marty “Spitfire” Dowdle left behind her husband of 49 years and five daughters. She was a peaceable, caring, wise and vibrant woman whose greatest joy came from being surrounded by the people she loved.
I felt powerless during the short course of my Mom’s illness. She was otherwise so frisky and healthy. Why hadn’t someone known? Why wasn’t there an early detection test? Moved by grief and motivated by frustration, I sat at her bedside and heard myself saying, “I’m going to raise money for ovarian cancer research by kicking my scooter down the coast in your honor!” That would be my human-powered, adult-sized scooter – no pedals, no seat, no motor – just one leg, then the other, kicking and scooting for 1,000 miles! It was an outrageous, idea, but she gave me an all-understanding smile and said without a trace of typical motherly worry, “You go for it!”
With that promise to my Mom and the enthusiastic support of the Lynne Cohen Foundation, Kickin’ Cancer! was born. After many months of planning, training and anticipation, on June 5, 2001, accompanied by Oregon cycling devotee and friend, John Morris (towing a hefty load of gear in a bike trailer), we rolled off from the Astoria Bridge in southern Washington to begin the journey south.
Day after day, week after week, I kicked on, unflappable John, pedaling patiently behind. I shared my Mom’s story at every opportunity and sold each scooted mile for $20.00 to generous supporters along the way. I spread the word about ovarian cancer symptoms to any attentive ear, emphasizing the critical need for funded research related to the development of an early detection test. From Washington to Oregon to California, I kicked and kicked and kicked. Needless to say, it was a grueling, adventure-packed challenge of a lifetime, every hour on the road inspired by my Mom’s display of strength and courage through the very difficult four weeks from her diagnosis to her last day of life.
With sun-baked faces, tales to tell and $20,000 raised for the Lynne Cohen Foundation, John and I rolled across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco after 48 days on the road. Now, 13 years later, my Mom’s memory lives on through the annual Kickin’ Cancer! 5K Walk/Run & Family Expo. I am tremendously grateful for the Lynne Cohen Foundation’s dedication to the fight against ovarian and breast cancer
and for their spirited organizing of the Kickin’ Cancer! event year after year. A heartfelt thank you to the Cohen family, to the sponsors, and to all the families, friends and cancer survivors who participate by walking, raising funds, contributing money and volunteering. It’s truly spectacular.
I never dreamed a journey that started with one crazy idea and the first determined kick would become a mighty event in honor and support of so many. I like to think that every September my Mom is beaming as she looks down at the starting line, thousands of bright T-shirts, people uplifting people, laughter and tears, little kids running their hearts out, everyone doing their part in uniting for a cause that touches us all.
Thank you for caring and for believing we can each make a difference!
Still kickin’ it,