Meet This Year’s Komen Race for the Cure Honorary Survivor

The 2019 Komen Greater Pennsylvania Race for the Cure is Saturday, September 21, on Courthouse Square in Scranton.

The annual race draws thousands of people to the downtown for a 5K walk/run and other activities all to raise money for breast cancer research and patient support.

Each year there's an honorary survivor. This year, it's Lael Swank of Mountain Top.

A 5K race and party in Mountain Top raised thousands of dollars for Lael, as did another fundraiser sponsored by Cavanaugh's Grille in Mountain Top. A giant pink bow still stands at Cavanaugh's in her honor.

But she confesses she prefers yellow. Sunflowers are more her style.

"Born and raised in Mountain Top, so this is my community, and they are just absolutely unbelievable," Lael said.

Lael was just 39 when she felt a lump. There's no family history, and she wasn't even old enough for the first recommended mammogram. But it was cancer.

"The first diagnosis was in 2010," she said. "I had a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation. I was in a clinical trial. And I was cancer-free for eight years."

Fast forward to last year's Race for the Cure. Lael had difficulty walking it and said her lungs felt heavy. She thought it might be pneumonia, but tests revealed that the breast cancer had come back.

"I did everything. Everything that was humanly possible."

This summer, Lael says a scan revealed that it had also spread to her liver. She started a third round of treatment last week.

Those might be the facts of Lael's medical history, but it's not her message. She says she is feeling great, and her team will be wearing t-shirts at the race this weekend. The team name bears the saint she wears around her neck, a newer saint named Padre Pio, the same team of family and friends she knows have been behind her all along and aren't going anywhere.

"I think what I've learned is to surround yourself with positive people."

Padre Pio is often quoted as saying "pray, hope, and don't worry."

Lael says she's good on the first two, but she's still working on the worry part.

WNEP-TV is a proud sponsor of the Komen race. Jon Meyer and Mindi Ramsey will be the emcees.

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