Two years ago Cape resident Chase Breneman was diagnosed with a brain tumor the size of a baseball. He was 5 years old.
One day he was a happy, healthy little boy. The next day he and his family were dealing with a frightening set of circumstances that anyone, let alone a 5-year-old, would have trouble coming to grips with.
The discovery of the tumor came by way of an odd shift in Chase's writing. He naturally wrote with his right hand, his mother Lesa said, but when he started using his left hand she took note.
At first, Lesa thought it might be a developmental change. But a trip to a pediatrician who was a close family friend confirmed the worst possible fear: Chase was on the verge of fighting for his life.
Now 7, Chase is well on the road to recovery.
He battled through surgery, three months in the intensive care unit, physical and occupational therapy and is back to doing most of the things that all 7-year-olds like to do.
"For the most part his life is fairly normal," Lesa said. "But there are a lot of kids who are in much worse situations."
Chase's recovery is, of course, an incredible blessing for him and his family.
But it also serves as inspiration for others when he plays the role of Ambassador for the inaugural "Moving Towards a Cure," a 5K run and walk to be held next month at Lakes Park in Fort Myers.
The event is the work of Miles for Hope, a Clearwater-based non-profit that focuses specifically on brain tumor education and research.
The organization was founded in 2004 by Bob and Barb Gibbs. It was their response to what they felt was a lack of information about treatment options for the disease.
Their core mission over the last seven years has been making that type of information available to those who are suffering, as well as funding crucial research into the disease on the university level.
After seven years battling multiple brain tumors, Bob died on Dec. 10 of this year.
Part of Miles for Hope's legacy, and in turn Bob Gibb's legacy, are these 5K events that are being staged around the country.
Development Director Debbie Turner said these events are crucial cogs in their fund-raising efforts.
And as they continue to expand to areas like Fort Myers, Turner said that high participation from the public was crucial.
Miles for Hope funded a $100,000 grant into pediatric brain tumor research, among others.
"Our money goes directly back into research. That's why these events are important for us," she said.
Brain tumors are diagnosed at the same rate as breast cancer, according to Turner, who added that every three minutes someone discovers they will have to fight the disease.
That includes children like Chase.
For Lesa, news of her son's illness instantly conjured visions that no mother wants to have: graduating high school, going to college, getting married, all of those things blurred and were replaced by thoughts of whether or not Chase would live to be 6 years old.
"You don't understand why it would happen to someone so young and so innocent," she said.
That's why Chase's role as ambassador of the 5K is important to the Brenemans.
Its their opportunity as a family to raise awareness of the disease, to use their experiences to help educate others who are, or could be, facing the same challenges.
The Breneman's happiness literally turned on a dime. And Lesa knows better than anyone the horror of watching her son suffer at the hands of a sometimes unstoppable enemy, one that literally appears from nowhere.
"It can happen to anybody at anytime," she said. "We went from everything is great to am I going to lose my son in a matter of 48 hours."
Miles for Hope is still looking for participants for the 5K walk and run, which will be held on Saturday, Jan 7, 10 a.m. at Lakes Park.
The 5K is open to all ages. Registration is $25 for adults and free for children under 6. Participants can form teams or walk individually.
Online registration is encouraged, but participants can register day-of. Registration begins at 9 a.m. on the day of the event.
For more information, visit BrainTumorEvents.org, or milesforhope.org.