Saturday's race through the Luzerne County Sports Complex (2009 Wyoming Ave., Forty Fort) will help celebrate the life of a local woman who's life was cut short by a disease thought to affect only the elderly.
The inaugural Steph's Fall 5K on Oct. 27 begins at 10:30 a.m. Proceeds will benefit the Stephanie Godri-Johnston Memorial Scholarship fund, which will be given to a Wyoming Area graduating senior with preference given to a cross country or track and field athlete.
Godri-Johnston was 31 when she was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in Jan. 2011, a discovery that surprised family.
To our knowledge, there isn't anyone on either side of the family who had colon cancer, her mother, Mary Godri, of Harding explained. In addition, only two members of her immediate family had breast cancer. It was just an ‘It can't be' kind of a thing. Even now, it's still very hard to think how this could have happened.
Aside from no direct connection to the disease, Godri-Johnston was a very active person, beginning with her time as a cross-country athlete from seventh to 12th grade at Wyoming Area. She also threw the discus, shot put, and javelin at Wyoming Area High School where she still holds the discus record at 102'2, her father, Ed, said.
In hindsight, early signs including rectal bleeding that began in 2009 could have been a clue towards her disease. Godri-Johnston also began to experience continued abdominal discomfort, one symptom described by the Colon Cancer Alliance web site.
The thing is, Stephanie never complained, Mrs. Godri said.
Following a colonoscopy in Jan. 2011, doctors took a biopsy of that mass, and it was discovered that she had stage IV colon cancer.
After several rounds of medication and chemotherapy, doctors shrank the once softball-sized tumor, but the seeds of the disease had broken through the wall of the intestine and taken root in her abdomen.
She passed away on May 10, 2012 at age 32, far younger than the ages commonly associated with the disease.
There are a number of young people, some of them even in their late teens, that have colon cancer… There has to be more awareness that this is not an old person's disease, Mrs. Godri said.
Since Godri-Johnston's diagnosis, members of her family have had colonoscopies, which her mother said is a sure way to detect polyps as the beginning of the disease, whether or not you have symptoms. The 15-minute procedure is worth it to determine if you're sick, she said.
I wouldn't want to see anybody go through what Stephanie went through.
Colon cancer is not widely discussed, despite the fact that it is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, according to the Colon Cancer Alliance.
The Godri family hopes to change that with the beginning of Steph's Fall 5K, even though Stephanie would probably dismiss all of the fuss. She is still remembered as a loving, giving, selfless person.
I think she would have said, ‘What's this all about?'
One hundred seventy-three participants had registered by Monday, and registration is open from 8:30-10:10 a.m. on Saturday
Steph's Fall 5K: Oct. 27, 10:30 a.m., registration from 8:30-10:10 a.m., Luzerne County Sports Complex (2009 Wyoming Ave., Forty Fort). $20 for 5K run or 3K walk pre-registration, $25 day of the event; fun run for age 10 and under. Proceeds benefit Stephanie Godri-Johnston Memorial Scholarship fund. Info: 570.388.2433, https://stephsfall5k.webconnex.com/registeronline, firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/stephsfall5k.