Son starts race for cure

Awareness: A Columbia man organizes a walk/run/ride event to focus on colon cancer, the disease that took his mother's life.

March 11, 2001|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Almost a year to the day after Brock Yetso lost his mother, the 24-year-old soccer coach is organizing an event he hopes will break the silence and save others like her.

Yetso is the coordinator for Columbia's Cure, a 5K run/walk and 15-mile bicycle ride to be held March 25 in Columbia's Centennial Park. He said the event is more about raising awareness of colon cancer, which took his mother's life, than about raising money.

"That's the thing about the disease," Yetso said. "No one really knows how deadly the disease is, and no one really gets tested."

In many ways, Marilyn Yetso would have seemed an unlikely person to contract colon cancer.

A vivacious mother of five who was a nurse and active in her Harper's Choice community, Yetso was 57 when she came down with flu-like symptoms in the winter of 2000. Within months, she had been diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, and she died March 17, 2000.

Before her death, Yetso said, his mother worked hard to be strong for her children and her husband, Stephen - to the point of putting aside her fears.

"She was a mother, and she took care of all of us through the process," said Brock Yetso, whose siblings range in age from 18 to 28. "It's still hard sometimes, but organizing this and talking more about the cancer has really helped me cope personally."

A former professional soccer player with the defunct Maryland Mania, Yetso set out six months ago to organize an event that combined his love of fitness with his desire to honor his mother.

"Colon cancer is what breast cancer was 10 years ago," Yetso said. "It's a part of the body that no one wants to talk about."

Yetso said he was familiar with cancer organizations through his close friendship with Doug Ulman, who beat cancer several times and founded the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. Ulman's organization is one of the beneficiaries of the event, and several sponsors, including the Rouse Co. and Howard County General Hospital, have signed on to help.

Emily Trakas, Yetso's girlfriend and assistant director of the event, said registration has exceeded expectations.

"Early on, Brock set what I thought to be a lofty goal of 500 people," Trakas said. "We already have 250 people signed up. It's just amazing how many people this disease touches."

Participants pay $20 and have the choice of either walking or running 5 kilometers or riding their bicycles 15 miles. The event will feature a health fair.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Priscilla Savary, executive director of the Montgomery County-based Colorectal Cancer Network, said more awareness is exactly what's needed. According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer will kill 57,000 Americans this year. In 2000, a projected 1,100 people in Maryland were expected to die from the disease, ranking the state seventh-highest nationally. But 93 percent of the cases are curable with early detection.

"The biggest challenge is getting people to truly hear the message and get tested," said Savary, whose organization is one of the beneficiaries of the Columbia's Cure event, which will take place the same weekend as the First Annual Colorectal Cancer Survivors Conference and Retreat in Chantilly, Va. "This cancer is unique in that it's largely preventable through regular screenings and removal of polyps."

For Yetso, Columbia's Cure is a small gesture for the woman who was such a big part of his life.

"You shouldn't have to lose someone close to you, like your mom, to learn the statistics about this disease," Yetso said.

For Columbia's Cure information, call 410-241-6326 or go to www.columbiacure.com.

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