Saturday marks the 20th Komen Lowcountry Race for the Cure, an event that has grown from 612 5K finishers in downtown Charleston in 1994 to 5,376 on Daniel Island last year, when a total of 9,300 registered for either the 5K, 1-mile or to “sleep in for the cure.”

If you go

What: 20th annual Susan G. Komen Lowcountry Race for the Cure.

When: 7-11 a.m. Saturday. Expo starts at 7 a.m., survivor ceremony at 8 a.m., one-mile fun run and walk at 8:30 a.m., 5K at 9:15 a.m. and awards ceremony at 10 a.m.

Where: Family Circle Stadium, Daniel Island.

Cost: Late registration is $45 for the 5K and fun run, or $35 to “Sleep in for the Cure.”

Packet pick-up and late registration: 9-6 p.m. Friday at Family Circle Stadium and starting at 7 a.m. Saturday at Family Circle Tennis Center.

Shuttles: Due to extreme traffic congestion in the past, organizers urge participants to carpool or to use a free shuttle service starting at 6:30 a.m. from the CARTA parking lot at 3621 W. Montague in North Charleston or at Mount Pleasant Towne Centre.

More info:

The goal for the 20th is lofty: 12,000 registrants and $1 million raised.

Grantees for 2012-13

In the 2013 fiscal year, the Lowcountry Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure has awarded more than $520,000 to nonprofits providing breast health education, screening, diagnostic and support services to our local communities for the 2013 fiscal year.

Alala Cancer Society, $28,500.

Allendale County Hospital, $59,080.

Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic, $31,050.

Beaufort Jasper Hampton Comprehensive Health, $59,759.

Best Chance Network, $76,054.

McLeod Health, $52,988.

The Regional Medical Center of Orangeburg and Calhoun Counties, $47,000.

Roper St. Francis Healthcare/Roper St. Francis Foundation, $82,305.

Smith Medical Center, $17,429.

Volunteers in Medicine, $70,449.

Source: Lowcountry Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Komen Lowcountry Executive Director Taffy Tamblyn says the organization is excited about the anniversary and expanded the event in the hopes to keep the celebration going throughout the morning. Among those added features are a food truck rodeo and children’s activity area.

Tamblyn says the push to raise more money is in response to even greater demands from Komen Lowcounty’s expansive 17-county region.

A total of $1 million in grants to community clinics and hospitals was requested last year.

More big numbers

And while about $900,000 was raised last year, 25 percent is required to go to the national Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, which handles grants for breast cancer research, including some at the Medical University of South Carolina.

From the rest, Komen Lowcountry awarded a total of $524,614 to 10 different nonprofit facilities that provided mammograms, exams, breast cancer education and other resources, mostly to people in need.

Among the array of services, which literally reached 750,000 women and men, were 4,009 mammograms, 2,377 clinical breast exams and 22 breast cancers detected. Most of those people would not have had access to those services otherwise.

From a historical standpoint, Komen Lowcountry has awarded $5.5 million in grants to community nonprofits, not including funds to Susan G. Komen, since its inception.

One woman’s story

Among the women helped this year was Linda Gill of James Island.

In February, the 55-year-old survivor of three previous cancers, all gynecological, became suspicious when her English bulldog, Homer, started “rooting around my right breast as if I had cheeseburger droppings on it.”

Eventually, that led Gill to find a lump.

Unfortunately, the former caregiver had used up her savings paying for her other cancer treatments and a back surgery and couldn’t afford insurance because of those conditions. A sonogram taken at a facility in Orangeburg confirmed that she had breast cancer, but she had no money for a biopsy.

She called Komen and Community Outreach Coordinator Lucy Spears lined one up at Roper Hospital. With that confirmation, Gill was able to get Medicaid and have her surgery and treatments covered.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done without Susan G. Komen’s help. Without it, it (breast cancer) would have killed me,” says Gill, adding that she also rewarded Homer with a real cheeseburger.

While Gill was unaware of the Race for the Cure, the event offers those who have battled and survived, along with family and friends, a chance to give back, remember and celebrate.

The fighter

That’s what appeals to Kathy Elsner, who at 42 continues her battle with cancer that started in her breasts more than two years ago.

“I’ve been to a lot of cancer events, but what I like about the Race for the Cure is that it’s festive, even while dealing with something that is heavy,” says the Isle of Palms resident.

The married mother of two was 39, a year before her planned routine mammogram, when a sneeze dropped her to her knees.

The sneeze had cracked a vertebrae in her back. After a week of baffling doctors, they found out Elsner had stage 4 breast cancer that had spread to her spine.

Initially, she responded well to treatments and the tumors disappeared. But cancer reappeared in September 2012 and it’s been an on-and-off battle since, with lung infections, hospitalizations and fatigue.

“From the beginning, I told my doctor that I will be dancing at my children’s weddings and to do what you have to do to get me there,” says Elsner, noting that her doctors doubt she’ll be cancer-free until another treatment breakthrough comes along.

“I’m optimistic and I still truly believe I’ll be dancing at my children’s weddings.”

To that end, Elsner and dozens of family and friends that make up Team Elsner have participated in the last two Race for the Cures and plan to do it again this year.

About 200 team members already have surpassed a goal of raising $20,000 and Elsner thinks they may come close to matching last year’s donation of $26,000.

A new survivor

Stacie Fuss participated in her first Komen Lowcountry Race for a Cure last year, just three months after finding a lump in her left breast.

“I did not have a known family history of breast cancer. I had no idea that I was at high risk of getting cancer, and I was three months shy of my annual mammogram, which I always do in October, because it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” says Fuss.

She called her doctor, saw several over the next five days, had a mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy, and was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer.

“Talk about changing your life,” says Fuss, a 45-year-old professional recruiter and married mother of two daughters, ages 10 and 12.

Then she went on the breast cancer roller coaster: a double mastectomy and reconstruction, a BRCA gene test that showed she was at high risk for ovarian cancer and, as a result, had surgery to remove her ovaries. She also had eight rounds of chemotherapy in seven months.

“I was a few weeks into my chemo when the Komen Race for the Cure came around last year. It was my first Komen Race and I was part of my husband’s team through work at Cummins,” says Fuss.

“Then another large group of friends from my tennis team surprised me; they had formed a team to walk in my honor. They all got dressed up and decorated their tennis racquets with my name and raised over $1,200 for breast cancer, for me, and it was amazing.”

This year, Fuss chose to create a “What The Fuss?” group, playing off her last name. The team will be composed of many of her friends who supported her last year and some new friends this year.

“At last year’s race, I was just starting down this path. I was scared and exhausted and sore from surgeries and was feeling pretty awful from chemo. Today my chemo is done, my surgeries are done and I am currently in my last two months of weekly infusions of another medicine called herceptin, which is supposed to help prevent my kind of cancer from coming back.”

She adds, “What a difference a year makes.”

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.