Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Biathlon helps raise cancer awareness and honor Cape native

Monday, September 17, 2012
Submitted photo

On Oct. 13 The "RUN/RIDE for RAGAN Biathlon" will take place in honor of Ragan Ward Neilson. Neilson's mother, Barbara Ward, and her fellow JavaJoggers are in charge of the event.

The JavaJoggers are group of women that have been meeting for nearly 20 years, waking up at 5 a.m Monday through Saturday to run, walk, lift weights and socialize. They have also participated in many local running and biking events together in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

"We all met at the Universal Physique fitness club where I taught classes at five in the morning," JavaJoggers representative Tracy Blattner said. "After our workouts, we'll meet for coffee and socialize about what's going on in our lives. We celebrate, grieve and hold each other up."

Neilson was raised in Cape Girardeau and graduated from Central High School in 1993.

Neilson first noticed a small lump on her breast after she became pregnant with her first child, Lilianna. When Neilson told the doctors and practitioners about the lump, they determined that a mammogram was not necessary due to her pregnancy.

On Sept. 12, 2006, Neilson delivered baby Lili and then the lump was looked at immediately. After the biopsy, the news confirmed that she had stage four breast cancer. Despite chemotherapy, bilateral mastectomies, stem cell rescue and radiation, Neilson lost her fight with stage four triple negative breast cancer on Oct. 29, 2007, at 32 years of age.

"Ragan was an amazing woman, extremely bright and had everything in the world going for her," Blattner said. "The disease should have been prevented, and if someone would've listened and had a mammogram done then it could have been fixed. It was pretty devastating."

Neilsons father, Dr. Robert Ward, wrote that Neilson had never lost hope and she always had the most positive and generous spirit. In fact, she wanted to help others in similar situations.

Neilson had just participated in a 5k run (pushing Lili in a stroller) for the Susan G. Komen For the Cure foundation, the most widely known, largest breast cancer foundation in the nation. She would be honored that this event is being held and thankful it will help others receive the care they need and deserve.

According to, about one in eight women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the United States, along with 57,640 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.

"Women should get checked for breast cancer if they're over the age of 35, unless you have a family history of cancer," Blattner said. "Most people don't know this, but men can get it, too."

About 2,140 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in men in 2011. A man's lifetime risk of breast cancer is about one in 1,000.

"It's important for people to be aware of cancer," Blattner said. "Cancer is wicked and has no boundaries, and everyone is affected by it in some way whether it's someone they know in the family or a friend or a friend's family."

The first part of the race will start at 7 a.m. for a memory/honor walk, and then the 5k run/17 mile bike ride will start at 8 a.m. at Boardman-Hutson Pavilion in downtown Cape Girardeau.

"We will not let her memory die," Blattner said. "We really want to emphasize that everyone should be in charge of her own care and if you have a concern then no one should tell you not to worry about it. Keep asking until someone gives you what you want."

All proceeds will go to local and national support organizations and assist with providing mammograms, transportation and other support needed to allow women to have a mammography for early detection.

"We want to help people in our local area of Cape Girardeau," Blattner said. "We have $10,000 in sponsorship, funded through patient services to help us pay for mammograms for the event. We need people to participate whether it's the memory/honor walk or 5k/17 mile bike ride. We need to press on and keep on going."

The deadline for registration is Sept. 30. Costs for the biathlon are $35 for an individual, $65 for a team and $25 for the memory/honor walk. Entry forms can be picked up at Cape Bicycling Cycling & Fitness, Cyclewerx, Fitness Plus, Healthpoint Fitness, Missouri Running Company and Top of the Line Athletics.

Participants can also go to the "RUN/RIDE FOR RAGAN" Facebook page or contact Blattner at 573-450-0545.