Woman running in honor of friend with cancer

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

Peggy Dodgion said preparing to run a 26-mile marathon is getting her in the best shape of her life.

But, the Ironton resident said it’s not her personal physical fitness that is serving as the inspiration for running in Sunday’s Rock-n-Roll Marathon in scenic San Diego: it’s her friend’s battle with cancer.

Dodgion is part of a 25-member team running to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a nationwide organization serving those with blood-related cancers. The team consists of runners from across the country, but the money they raise goes to their respective communities for cancer research and patient aid such as prescriptions, transportation and treatment costs.

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Dodgion is running the marathon in honor of Julie Ball, a first-grade teacher at Whitwell Elementary School and chronic myelogenous leukemia survivor. The two women forged a friendship when Dodgions’ son, Isaiah, was in Ball’s class.

“I don’t think I would have done this (run in a marathon) before,” Dodgion said. “But, it really means something. I’m running because I have a purpose and there is a meaning behind it. She (Ball) has served as my inspiration.”

Ball was diagnosed last year and is now in recovery. She continues to teach at Whitwell, where she has only missed a few days of school since her diagnosis.

“She is just a very positive person and that is such an uplifting thing,” Dodgion said.

Dodgion has jogged in the past, off and on, but said jokingly, “Running three hours without stopping is hard.”

As a mother of two young children and coordinator of the county’s Adult Basic Literacy Education program, finding time to train has been the most difficult part of her preparation. Her intensive training has already led to a number of aches and pains, blisters and an injury to the tendons in her foot. But, Dodgion said, those ailments are nothing compared to what cancer patients have to endure during their battles.

In order to prepare for the marathon, she has been working for the past few months with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program, which has provided her with a coach, training tips, lodging and airfare to the marathon and a free Web site to journal progress.

Dodgion said emails and phone calls from supporters have also made her efforts easier.

This is not the first time Ball has been the inspiration for a fundraiser. Last month, her team, “Julie’s Jailers” raised nearly $10,000 for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life at Fairland High School. They finished fourth overall in total money raised. Much of that money came from bracelets made by Ball and her friends. The bracelets feature colored beads, each representing a different type of cancer, and are still available for $10 each.

According to information on her Web site, Dodgion has raised about 60 percent of her goal of $4,000. For more information about donating to her efforts call (740) 532-6798.