The Long Run: Relay Team Turns Tide For Breast Cancer Patients In Need

June 28, 2019
By: Julie Poucher Harbin, Writer, DCI

One of only a handful of all-women teams that compete in the Tuna 200, the BAMRs 12-person relay team celebrates completing the Tuna Run 200. The team ran 200 miles to raise money for the Pretty in Pink Foundation, which has covered the cost of thousands of life-saving breast cancer treatments for 13 years. They are looking forward to your support again this year.Led by Duke breast cancer surgeon Rachel Greenup, MD, MPH, a team of mainly Duke and UNC women's healthcare providers — the BAMRs — will traverse the long and winding rural roads of eastern North Carolina once again this October to aid breast cancer patients who can’t afford their treatments.

The 12-woman team will run 200 miles — from Raleigh to Atlantic Beach — in the Tuna Run 200 relay to raise money for the Pretty in Pink Foundation. The team’s chosen charity, established by Duke breast surgeon Lisa Tolnitch, MD, provides financial assistance to underinsured and uninsured breast cancer patients in North Carolina. Nearly 11,000 from the state will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and nearly 2,400 of them will qualify for this assistance.

The BAMRs was formed three years ago by UNC nurse midwife Amanda OBriant and a group of moms working in women’s health who loved to run and run competitively. Not one among them was or is a weekend warrior. They mean business.

Training, in Greenup’s case, includes 6 a.m. weekday runs. With the team since the beginning, this year’s Tuna Run will be her fourth.

It’s the first Tuna Run for new mom and chief of Breast Surgery at Duke Regional Hospital Laura Rosenberger, MD, MS, FACS. Greenup recruited her.

“Laura almost made the Olympics for pole-vaulting,” said Greenup. “She’s an athlete.”

“An athlete at heart, if not in current body,” corrected Rosenberger, noting she had her second child a year ago. “This run will get me get back in shape and help the women who I care for everyday who can’t afford their care.”

Team members typically run between 15 and 20 miles, broken up into three or fewer runs. The team’s two vans pick up runners at designated exchange zones along the route.

Community volunteers give them spaces to sleep, whether in open fields or churches, and provide meals — from biscuits to burgers — along the way. They encourage the runners and express their gratitude.

Does the team typically hit any snags? A group of five BAMRs gathered on the green at Duke Cancer Center one balmy June night and chimed in with their stories.

“One year our van got stuck in the ditch,” said UNC midwife Cherese Infinito, CNM, MSN. “Five women pushing a van out of a muddy ditch, while one kept on running…”

“We nearly lost someone last year… on the floor of a church,” laughed UNC breast oncologist Katie Reeder-Hayes, MD, MBA, MSc, who found a teammate fast asleep in between the church pews after nearly leaving without her.

The BAMRs are just warming up in this year’s fundraising efforts for the Pretty in Pink Foundation. Pictured here: Breast cancer surgeon Laura Rosenberger, MD, FACS (Duke); certified nurse midwife Meg Berreth, MSN, CNM (UNC); breast cancer surgeon Rachel Greenup, MD, MPH, FACS (Duke); medical oncologist Katie Reeder-Hayes, MD, MBA, MSc (UNC); and certified nurse midwife Cherese Infinito, CNM, MSN (UNC).“Let’s not forget the guy who had the seizure that one year,” said UNC midwife Meg Berreth, MSN, CNM, who relayed how the five women in her van — OB providers and breast surgeons — leaped out and came to his aid, staying with him until first responders arrived. It turned out, they were the very firefighters who’d just served them hot dogs and hamburgers. Small world.

Then there was the time the group witnessed a runner getting attacked by a dog and they teamed up to save her.

“We always get attacked by a dog at least once,” said Infinito, to whom it happened twice. “It’s scary, let’s be real.”

“I’ve never been attacked by a dog,” remarked Greenup, who’s dealt with an entirely different kind of stress — “preparing a presentation for the National Institutes of Health in the back of the van on no sleep.”

Greenup loves night-running during “The Tuna;” preferably one good long stretch by the light of a harvest moon.

She typically drives one of the vans. Her driving style is to follow her running teammates closely. Too close for comfort for some on the team.

“What can I say, I’m an eternal mother,” said the BAMRs team captain and mom-of-three.

After about 35 hours of running and sleeping in shifts — and not having showered for two days — the final runners in the relay cross the finish line. The deep blue ocean and a feast of sizzling pan-seared tuna and cold beer awaits.

For this relay team, which plans to raise $15,000 this year to help cover the cost of life-saving breast cancer treatments for patients in need, there’s no better fish to fry.

This year’s Tuna 200, from Raleigh, NC, to Atlantic Beach, NC, takes place Friday, Oct. 25, through Saturday, Oct. 26. To support the team, visit the BAMRs Tuna Run 200 team page.

CIRCLE PHOTO (TOP):  Duke Cancer Institute Breast cancer Surgeons Laura Rosenberger, MD, MS, FACS, and Rachel Greenup, MD, MPH, FACS, are two of three Duke-affiliated providers on the BAMRs team that's preparing for October's Tuna Run 200 to benefit the Pretty in Pink Foundation. Not pictured: Keri Seymour, DO, a surgeon with the Duke Center for Metabolic and Weight Loss Surgery.

RECTANGLE IMAGE (FRONT OF BLOG): Duke Surgery residents, plus UNC Rex Healthcare/Wake Radiology breast imaging radiologist Danielle Wellman, MD, and Rachel Greenup, MD, MPH, FACS, with their Tuna Run 200 medals last year.