Small Wonders: Run for the Roses of the world

"When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved, you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better."

— Maya Angelou

According to the American Cancer Society, almost 1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime

Rose Marie Hunt had beaten breast cancer once. But when it came back, and metastasized to other parts of her body, Jessica Cribbs knew her mother's prognosis wasn't good. A Burbank resident for eight years, Jessica had already gone back to her hometown of Petersburg, Mich. — a farming community of 1,120 people somewhere between Toledo and Ann Arbor — to be with her mother through radiation and chemotherapy.

But when "quality of life" became the topic of discussion rather than longevity, Jessica, her husband and two children made the long drive back East for what she knew would be the last Christmas with the matriarch and center of her family.

Jessica set up a blog ( for her mother to update family and friends on her progress. But Rose was soon too sick to keep it up. Jessica took over, and the blog became a daughter's way to share what it's like losing a mother to cancer.

On a cold, Midwestern winter's day in January 2009, Rose, at the far-too-young age of 54, took her last breath surrounded by her family, holding her daughter's hand.

"I know people like to think death might be peaceful," Jessica told me last week as she rocked her sleeping newborn on the dining room table. "But it wasn't. It was not peaceful watching. "

Jessica was afraid these last, painful moments would be all she had left of her mother, her best friend, the person who taught her everything she knew about being a mom, a friend and a daughter. Her mother's death did rock Jessica's world for some time.

"But it's amazing when you get through that, what you're left with," Jessica said. "All the things from childhood, things she said. I'll be in the kitchen cooking something and remember who taught me the recipe. Or the clothes that I'm wearing that she got me the last birthday I had with her."

Rose spent most of her energy thinking about and helping others, Jessica said. "Everything I am is what she's left me with. She was my model. A pretty amazing model."

So Jessica was determined that her mother's unselfish legacy be remembered. She vowed to make things better. Just like her mother always did.

"I'm not one to sit and mope," she told me. "So I knew I wanted to do good things in her name."

That's how Jessica came up with the idea to hold a 5K run/walk in her mother's honor — the Rose Run (

Jessica wanted to do what she could to help find a cure for breast cancer in her lifetime, and certainly within the lifetime of her two daughters. Held on Community Day in Petersburg, the Rose Run raised more than $10,000 in 2009. Jessica got almost twice the 175 participants she had anticipated.

This year she's hoping to exceed her expectations once again. While Jessica will be in Michigan for the Rose Run in her hometown, there will be a simultaneous virtual 5K Rose Run here in Griffith Park next Saturday morning, July 17, thanks in part to Moms in Motion (, a global social network connecting moms through fitness.

Check the Rose Run website for details on registering and donating. Sign up before Sunday and get a T-shirt and goody bag. You can also show up on the day of the run and participate. All of the proceeds go directly to the nonprofit Breast Cancer Research Foundation. (

The American Cancer Society estimated that in 2009, about 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer would be diagnosed among women in the U.S., and that 40,170 would die from the disease. There are about 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. today. I'd wager most of us know at least one of these brave women.

"It's like when you get a new car," Jessica said. "You suddenly notice that everyone else now has the same car. Now that I've been affected by cancer, I see everybody has been affected by cancer. And I really want to encourage people to do something healthy and take accountability right now."

She's living up to the qualities her mother instilled in her.

Rose Marie Hunt was a country girl, raised on the farm, the same one Jessica was raised on. Born in the same house that she died in. And always putting others before herself.

"She was just thoughtful," Jessica said of her mother. "It was never about her. She was forgiving more than anybody I knew. She was strong. She had tiny hands that could do anything. She was just amazing. You really don't know how amazing until she's gone."

When Jessica knew there was no beating the cancer, she had the hardest conversation of her life. She asked her mother what she wanted for her family after she was gone. And Rose told her.

"Be happy. Be a family. That's it."

Rose had her priorities straight.

PATRICK CANEDAY will be running in the Rose Run next Saturday, July 17. Join him. He may be reached on Facebook, at and

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