When Michelle Simms lost her battle with cervical cancer in March, many remembered her as energetic and cheerful. She was a beautiful fighter. If all of those things were true, then the 31-year-old had a tremendous impact on the world.
For proof look no further than the large group of her St. Albert-based friends and family members who will be running around the streets of Edmonton tonight — sans pants.
Lesley Gierulski, Simms’ mother, is just one of many cheerleaders for the Clitar Heros, the 30-member strong team that is participating in this year’s edition of the Underwear Affair. The Edmonton event is a five-kilometre walk or 10-km run with hundreds of men and women stripped down to their underthings, all for the benefit of the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
The obvious tagline is meant to promote awareness of testicular, ovarian, prostate, colorectal, bladder, cervical and other cancers below the waist, all of which account for 33 per cent of all diagnoses in Alberta each year. As if these diseases weren’t bad enough, they have the added stigma of occurring below the waist, society’s socially secret area.
Running down the street in your panties is a great way to destroy that stigma and it brings a whole lot of fun and camaraderie along with it, not to mention financial support. As it stands right now, the Clitar Heros lead all other groups in fundraising, having already brought in more than $25,000.
“This is something that Krista wanted to race herself,” Gierulski said. “She was the one that thought up the name and got the girls together.”
She added her daughter ran the race before when she was first diagnosed a few years ago but the doctors told her she was cured. “They told her that was the end of it.”
Tragically, circumstances proved otherwise. “It was stage four when they finally recognized that it was cancer again. They phoned her up and told her that she was stage four and it had travelled to her bones … after three cancer treatments they said it wasn’t working, shook her hand and said, ‘Good luck.’ That was it.”
Since Simms was an avid athlete, it seemed only fitting to have just a few of her closest friends celebrate her memory with this active tribute, a dedication to love and life in motion. She left behind a husband and three beautiful children.
“She had hoped that she would have more than this for time. She asked her trainer to run it for her.”
To learn more about these cancers and the race itself, please visit www.uncoverthecure.org.