The path to living well

By on May 13, 2011

Photo: Tracey Marut

The Sixth Annual Bridge Walk
5K walk along the Fox River

Saturday, May 14
7 a.m. rain or shine
Fabyan Forest Preserve to register

by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—Elburn resident Tracey Marut passed away in September after a 10-year battle with colon cancer, but not before she made a big contribution to a place that had done so much for her and her husband Dave. The Living Well Cancer Resource Center in Geneva is a place where people living with cancer can find support and care and give it themselves.

“We had an incredible experience with Living Well,” Dave said. “They made her last year, and mine, a joy-filled one. She is very well-remembered there.”

During the last few years of her life, Tracey volunteered to teach kids in art, as she continued the weekly or bi-weekly treatments for cancer that she had been having since she was first diagnosed in 1999. Dave was able to get support at Living Well for his role as caregiver.

“There are wonderful people there. You can find a peaceful, serene setting with people who are in similar types of situations. For me, as the caregiver, (there were people) I met with on a regular basis.”

Marut will join nearly 1,500 people on Saturday, May 14, as they set out on a path not only to raise awareness of and collect funds for cancer services at LivingWell, but also to celebrate survivors of cancer in their walk through this disease.

The day begins at 7 a.m. rain or shine with a Celebration Walk for cancer survivors. The 500-foot path will be lined with 75 students from St. Charles and Geneva schools’ drill teams, cheerleading squads and color guard, along with the five-member fire department color guard.

“We want to celebrate their courage and their lives, and what they have accomplished,” LivingWell Director Susan Mielke said. “We are excited because we spent a lot of energy on making this a meaningful event this year.”

The survivors nominate someone to act as Grand Marshall, and that person will be named before the start of the walk. As the Grand Marshall leads the walk down the path, Mary Hunt, a local jazz singer, will sing “We Are the Champions.” Afterwards, Hines Floral will give floral pots to the walkers. Then everyone will be treated to a huge breakfast.

“We have tons of food. It’s amazing what we’ve got. It’s a gourmet breakfast,” Mielke said.

After the Celebration Walk, the 5K Bridge Walk begins. This is Marut’s first walk and the first walk since Tracey’s death. He has rallied family and friends into a 12-person team called Tracey’s Troopers.

“We’re walking in her honor and her memory,” he said. “Tracey was an unbelievable model (for those living with cancer). She never once relented. She went through quite an ordeal.”

Last year, the Bridge Walk raised a total of $275,000. The funds are used to support the center’s 50 programs and services that are provided free of charge to cancer survivors, their families and anyone affected by cancer. The center has daily offerings of classes that instill knowledge, connect mind, body and spirit, and provide community for people living with cancer.

The center accepts donations of money and expertise. Its classes are taught by volunteers in areas such as fitness, yoga, Reiki, Tai Chi, NIA and Qi gong. It conducts support groups for various forms of cancer, grief groups and informational presentations.

“The center helped me so much in my transition. (I was able to take) Reiki treatments and massages ( during that difficult time). I can’t say enough about LivingWell. The counselors are young, but incredibly wise. They changed both Tracey’s and my lives,” Marut said.

With only five staff members, LivingWell relies on volunteers. Both the volunteers and the people living with cancer bring positive feelings to the center.

“The building is filled with good energy and love,” Mielke said. “I can’t walk through the halls without someone stopping to say ‘thank you.’ When I’m all stressed from fundraising, all I have to do is stop and talk to someone for a few minutes, and it fills me up. I remember why I’m here.”

Marut is so inspired by what he experienced at Living Well that he is putting all his efforts into supporting its message and raising funds to keep the programs going. He has become an ambassador for the center and goes to different functions to spread the word.

“At this point in my life, I’ve decided I’m going to help support them, help raise money for them and do as much as I can for them, he said. “I will tell every single person I meet how great LivingWell is.”

He has also decided to set up in Tracey’s name a college scholarship fund for students whose lives have been affected by cancer and also a fund that will donate its proceeds to the center.

As he looks forward to the Bridge Walk this weekend, Marut reflects on the message of Living Well.

“The message of Living Well is terrific, that despite this horrible illness, you can live a quality life. For our group, it will be a great day of celebration in Tracey’s memory. I know we’ll all be thinking about her. And you can’t think of her without seeing the joy. That’s what Living Well is all about,” he said.