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Beating Cancer, One Mile At A Time

Seven-year-old Caroline Turns, who was recently diagnosed with a rare form of pediatric cancer

Not sure what’s more mind-blowing to Kelly Howell these days. the fact that a precious 7-year-old girl can get pancreatic cancer. Getting up at 5 a.m. to run 13 miles. Or the kindness of total strangers.

Let’s go with the kindness of total strangers.

“I just can’t believe the support, some of it from people I don’t even know,” says Kelly, a pharmaceutical rep for AstraZeneca who just happens to be my across-the-street neighbor in McKinney. “I mean, people are giving their time, money, auction items, whatever they can. It’s really touched my heart.”

Fingers crossed, it will cure Kelly's niece's cancer.

Kelly’s niece, Caroline Turns, was recently diagnosed with pancreatoblastoma, a pediatric cancer so rare the doctors at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis had no protocol in treating it. For now, Caroline just hopes to see her next birthday. She’ll be 8 in November.

After four rounds of chemotherapy, she’s lost her hair, developed a case of mucositis (lesions and a drying of all soft, moist body tissues) and recently spent a couple days on a feeding tube. The good news: The tumor is shrinking, and doctors are hoping to perform surgery to remove it next month.

“When I tell people she’s got pancreatic cancer, they just assume it’s like death walking,” says Kelly. “But she’s hanging in there and doing great. Her attitude is unbelievable.”

Feeling helpless, but obviously not hopeless, Kelly decided to do what any good aunt would do: run a marathon. Precisely, the St. Jude’s Memphis Marathon on Dec. 1. She’s taking donations for Team Caroline, introducing her body to the pain of training and -- oh, yeah -- did we mention the party?

“It started as a small gathering at my house,” Kelly says. “But it’s now it’s a big bash for over 200. It’s wonderful.”

The Halloween-themed bash is Friday from 8 p.m.-12 a.m. at McKinney’s DaVindy Ballroom, which donated its space for the event. The food will be catered by Aparicio’s, and the music performed by local band Rumblefish. Beer, wine, margaritas. All for a suggested donation-at-the-door of $50.

Best of all, the silent auction will feature autographed items by Tony Romo, Dirk Nowitzki, Troy Aikman, Michael Young, Jerry Rice and Brad Wilkerson, a golf resort vacation and even a tattoo. And, lest I forget, the cherry atop the sundae – a signed Playboy and a personal phone call from Internet download queen Cindy Margolis. (Hey, any event that lets us post two pics of her is a worthy event, no?)

After finishing the marathon, Howell hopes to present St. Jude’s and her niece with a check for $10,000. Here’s betting she does just that.

“I’m not a runner by any stretch of the imagination,” she says. “But when I see Caroline fighting and struggling … that’s all the motivation I need.” --Richie Whitt

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