Heather Bowman has never run a road race in her life. Yet Thursday night she will be among the 500 runners gathering at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland for the inaugural all-women’s Twilight 5K at 7 p.m.

This race, with proceeds going to the Maine Cancer Foundation, holds a very special place for Bowman.

She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in February 2009. She had her thyroid removed on May 29, 2009 and underwent iodine radiation therapy. She’s now cancer-free.

“This race was meant for me,” said the 28-year-old Bowman. “It spoke to me.”

Almost literally. Bowman was driving to work in Scarborough after a round of testing at Central Maine Medical Center when she heard a radio commercial about the race, stating that there were only a limited number of spots remaining.

“I registered as soon as I could get to a secured (wireless) place,” said Bowman. “I didn’t think I’d get in. The radio spot said there were less than 50 spots left.

“When I found out that I got in, it was very exciting. My 3-year-old son (Josiah), who was very inspirational to me throughout my treatment, said, ‘I’ll be waiting for you at the finish line, mom.’ This (race) is a bright light for me when I was in a dark place.”

Bowman said everything about the race has been inspiring to her. She hopes to raise $500 for it through donations and was close to her goal last week.

“The turnout and support people have shown me in supporting this cause has been tremendous,” said Bowman, who lives in Naples. “This has been very touching for me. Not just because of what I was going through, but because I know so many people who have been touched by different types of cancer.”

Bowman visited her doctor 15 months ago for a physical. A lump was found in her throat. In addition to having her thyroid glands removed, doctors also took out some lymph nodes.

Six weeks after surgery, she underwent the iodine radiation treatment and was in isolation for a week. Then she was put on a strict three-week diet.

“Fruits, vegetables and bland chicken,” she said. “It’s amazing how creative you can become with those foods.”

A track athlete at Lake Region High, Bowman decided to run as well. Her entrance into the race has forced her to begin a regular training regimen.

“It’s completely motivated me, not just as a mom to stay fit but for my own health,” she said. “It’s easy to lose track when you’re a mom, push your health aside.”

The Twilight 5K has surpassed everyone’s expectations. Established by the Maine Cancer Foundation as an alternative to its highly successful women’s Tri for a Cure triathlon in August, it filled sooner than expected.

“Am I surprised? Yes and no,” said Peter King, the director of special events for the Maine Cancer Foundation. “With first-year events, sometimes you’re just not sure. And it’s on a Thursday night. There are very few things that happen on a Thursday, so maybe on one hand that was something that was looking positive for us.

“But I think the idea that it’s just for women has an appeal and a following because of the way the triathlon works.”

Emily LeVan, a two-time winner of the Maine Marathon, and her daughter, Maddie, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2007, will attend the race.

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]