Friends of Phil Rally for All Cancer Colors at Avera Race
Little moments show the true spirit of a person.
Days before Phil Davis passed away after four years with multiple myeloma cancer, he called his travel agent and booked a cruise for his wife Judy and daughter Allison. It was one last gift he could give them – an adventure to a place they had long wanted to visit together — the Central American rainforests.
Then there was the day one year ago he spent greeting friends and celebrating with Judy and Allison at the 30th Race Against Breast Cancer — despite feeling sick from the effects of treatment.
“Until we left I didn’t know how bad he was feeling,” Judy said. “But he kept going so he could go to the race, and afterward we had to take him to the hospital. That was a true example of his determination.”
His long-lasting support of the Avera Race is one of the reasons he’s this year’s honorary chair for the Avera Race Against Cancer. The race raises awareness and money for local cancer survivors.
Phil passed away in January after he decided to stop treatment and moved to the Dougherty Hospice House. He was the best choice for this honor as the Avera Race expands to include all types of cancer in its 31st year, said Jackie Haggar-Tuschen, Director of the Avera McKennan Fitness Center, who was involved in deciding this year’s chair.
“Phil is the image of what we’re trying to do with this race in honoring all types of cancers,” Haggar-Tuschen said. “Even if he won’t be with us this year, we’re honored to share his story because we wanted him to shine.”
Phil’s history with the race dates back to the beginning when it was created in honor of his wife Judy after her diagnosis with breast cancer. At the time, Judy already realized her husband was her greatest supporter, taking over much of the daily household duties while she struggled through treatment and trying to continue her work as a teacher. He developed a knack for cooking and a special bond with his daughter.
Phil, who retired a year ago as President of Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Dakota, also supported the race as a corporate sponsor. For years, Wellmark has provided the specially designed T-shirts for survivors.
They’ll continue to support the race this year on May 11, and Judy is excited the T-shirts will be available for all survivors, not just those with breast cancer.
“It’s fabulous that we focused on breast cancer, but I’m excited to think that we’re going to start honoring all kinds of cancer and all survivors. I know how excited Phil would have been to be in the race this year and walk alongside all the people who have been supporting both of us.”
For Judy, her and Phil’s story is also important in that it shows the full story of cancer.
“I think we knew Phil might not be here for the race — we don’t all survive our disease but we are certainly all winners,” Judy said. “You’re a survivor the minute you’re diagnosed. No one worked harder at staying alive than Phil did.”
This winter, as she and her daughter enjoyed their trip arranged by Phil, they took a moment to honor him by leaving a rock painted with his initials in Costa Rica.
“I have a lot to thank him for,” Judy said. “I know he would be happy that we are going to continue to travel. We’ll say a prayer for him and leave a rock in his honor wherever we go.”