Jim and Toni Leahey

Photo by Leah Friel lfriel@midweek.com

It’s that time of year again when community members lace up those running (or walking) shoes for a good cause. The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure takes place Sunday (Oct. 20) at Kapiolani Park, and the event committee is expecting more than 6,000 participants this year.

Those interested still have time to pick up individual and team packets at Ward Warehouse’s Kewalo Conference Room from 3 to 7 p.m. Oct. 16-18 and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Oct. 19.

Honorary race co-chairs this year are Jim (featured on MidWeek‘s cover Feb. 12, 1986) and Toni Leahey, both cancer survivors.

Next February, the Leaheys celebrate 48 years of marriage and say their battles with cancer have strengthened the bond between them.

“We’ve both been caregivers for each other,” explains Jim, who was diagnosed with leukemia Sept. 11, 1997. “My wife was with me every day. She was a really terrific caregiver.

“I got involved (with the race) because of my wife.”

After six years of numerous hospital visits and follow-up appointments, Jim was declared cancer free.

“The doctor told me to ‘Get out. Don’t come back. You’re cured,'” he says, “because all of a sudden my bone marrow started to make healthy cells. That was a miracle, I believe.”

Then last year Toni was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she also says her husband was a wonderful caregiver.

“He has driven me to 80 million different medical appointments,” she says with a hint of sarcasm. “But he’s done it and continues to do it, and he reminds me it’s because I was there for him.”

But always the optimist, Toni says she has learned valuable lessons that she hopes to pass on to other women.

“I think, with any kind of cancer, early detection is key,” she explains. “All women need to do their breast checks and need to go in for a mammogram as soon as they can.

“The other lesson I learned was to try to find doctors that you feel comfortable with and trust, and do what they say.”

She says going through that stressful ordeal taught her to be grateful for all life has to offer and to learn to accept help.

Jim agrees, and says, “It’s just something that happens, but you learn lessons from that, and you learn that you have to fight and you cannot ignore it. You have to listen to your doctors.”

Thankfully, the Leaheys are fighters and survivors, and their goal is to spread awareness in their community.