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Family members inspire run, walk to fight cancers

ATLANTIC CITY—Pink is a lovely shade for the spring, but on Saturday, May 11, on the steps of Tropicana Atlantic City, pink will be powerful and proud as the breast cancer survivors taking part in the 17th annual Shirley Mae Run will be decked out in pink. Leading the proud survivors will be 90-year-old Shirley Mae Goldberg, in whose name the organization was founded when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 70 in 1999, according to her daughter Anne Neustadter.

The race is always the Saturday before Mother’s Day, and Neustadter said that date was chosen because it is the day before the Susan G. Koman Race/Walk in Philadelphia. “We had so many from our area that would drive to Philly to take part in the Susan G. Koman event to support women or walk in honor of their loved ones, we decided to begin a race here in Atlantic City, and it has grown every year,” Neustadter said. “Mother’s Day is special and so many of the people that run or walk say they feel as though they are supporting and honoring not only their moms, family members and friends but all women who fight this disease.”

The Shirley Mae Fund was started by Roy Goldberg in honor of his mother with the sole purpose of helping local women fighting breast cancer who may not have the means to pay for some of their needs such as medication or wigs, prosthetics, lymphedema sleeves and other supplies. All of the funds raised through the run stay in southeastern New Jersey, according to Neustadter. “Our vendors are here, our suppliers and our pharmacies that we work with to help provide for those women that are having a difficult time providing for things they truly need in their recovery.” A committee advises on a case-by-case basis to determine who will get assistance from the Shirley Mae Fund.

Neustadter said she has always been vigilant about screenings but five years ago doctors discovered cancer, not through mammography but an MRI. She underwent a double mastectomy and is a very healthy five-year survivor herself.

“I was checked after my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and I did not have the (BRCA1) gene and she did not have the gene so I tell everyone, just because you may not have the gene does not mean you will never get breast cancer, so you have to be vigilant,” Neustadter said. “When I hear that another woman has died as a result of breast cancer, I am truly sad because there has been so much progress in the fight against breast cancer and the number of survivors is growing if they catch the disease early.”

According to bebrcaaware.com, everyone is born with BRCA genes. BRCA stands for BReast CAncer susceptibility gene. Normally, BRCA genes work to suppress tumors from growing. But when these genes are mutated, they are no longer able to help suppress tumors, leading to an increased risk of cancer. Mutations in the BRCA gene are associated with breast, ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. Women with a BRCA1 mutation have up to a 39 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer by age 70.

Seven years ago, after Michael Neustadter’s death from pancreatic cancer, the family created the Michael J Neustadter Pancreatic Cancer Fund. It is completely separate from the Shirley Mae Fund, according to his widow. The Michael J. Walk is held in conjunction with the Shirley Mae Run. All of the money raised by the walk funds research such as immunotherapy research being conducted at the University of Pennsylvania.

Katie Neustadter DeSalle is a runner, and she proudly wears her purple (the support color for pancreatic cancer) shirt, I run for Daddy, and said when she is having a tough time in a race, she feels her dad helps her push on.“He never quit so I can never quit,” DeSalle said. She is not alone in her mission to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer research. Julie Weiss, self-dubbed "Marathon Goddess," ran 52 marathons in 52 weeks in honor of her father, who died of pancreatic cancer. She will be at the Shirley Mae Race and Michael J Walk on May 11 signing copies of her inspirational book and taking part in the run.

The walk and race are set for Saturday, May 11m and it is not too late to be inspired to honor, to remember and to join the survivors, those battling and those who have lost their battle. Sign up on the website runsignup.com/Race/NJ/AtlanticCity/ShirleyMaeRunMichaelJWalk.

Proceeds will benefit the Shirley Mae Fund, Michael J. Neustadter Fund for Pancreatic Cancer and Gilda’s Club of South Jersey. Follow the Shirley Mae Run and Michael J Walk on Facebook and Instagram.

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