Spirit of Survival runners climb Mt. Scott to battle cancer

MEDICINE PARK-- The Spirit of Survivial Marathon weekend began with a shotgun blast Saturday morning, as more than one hundred runners trekked up Mount Scott for the 5K run.

It didn't take long for some runners to break ahead of the pack, especially Jorge Rangel of Oklahoma City. He finished first overall coming in at about 23 and a half minutes. Only four minutes behind him was ten-year old Carter Tate of Midland, Texas. "I was glad I didn't have any more hills to run up," Tate said.

Many runners say they've taken part in big racing events, marathons included, but when it comes to Mount Scott, "It was an awesome challenge," said Jackie Johnson of Lawton. "Because most of this run was all up hill, it was a good run, a good pump, and gets you going."

Race events continue Sunday with the marathon, half-marathon, marathon relay, Super Kids Marathon and the Big Rock 10K.

Saturday night people celebrated what the Spirit of Survival weekend is really about: fighting for a cure. A luminary service along Medicine Creek honored those who have battled cancer, both those who have won and lost.

Tears filled the eyes of those in attendance as Comanche County Memorial Hospital's chaplain read the names of their loved ones. People hugged their loved ones who battled cancer and won -- while at the same time remembering those who lost the war... But Saturday night's overwhelming message: a diagnosis of cancer isn't a death sentence.

Jhadia Gibson was four years old when the doctors said she had leukemia. She and her families lives haven't been the same since. "It was devastating not knowing what was next or what we were in for, or what was going to happen," said Jhadia's mother, Dawn. "We didn't know anything, it was just real numbing."

And though she fought cancer and won -- her story isn't like the others. She spent nine months in the hospital, had her spleen removed, and she was actually her own bone marrow donor. "That is very rare that you are your own donor," Dawn said. "So she basically saved her own life."

And even though she may stand out from other cancer patients in that way -- she's still like every other 12-year-old. "She plays soccer, she plays basketball," she said. "You would never know, ever. If I didn't tell you, you would never know."

Jhadia does have to take penicillin twice a day, but they celebrate every test that comes back negative for leukemia and every anniversary of the day she became cancer-free. "April 28th, it was a great day," Dawn said. "Every year we remember it, it's our other birthday. But the day you're in remission, it's the best day."

She lives her life every day as a normal child -- even though she's extraordinary. "I can do anything and I can achieve my goals," Jhadia said. "Even though I have cancer doesn't mean that I'm weak inside."

Cancer survivors Saturday night said it's great to see people literally running to support them -- and helping them finish the race themselves. They all said this really is the Spirit of Survival.