She helped the Black community talk about cancer and COVID. Then her world stopped.

Posted at 5:31 PM, Apr 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-09 17:31:58-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Rudene Haynes said she hates running, but she is running often now as she trains for the Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K.

She's running in the event to support the VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"It's a big year for Massey and it's a big year for the 10K itself," Haynes said.

The Monument Avenue 10K is celebrating 25 years and VCU Massey Cancer Center is celebrating 50 years.

Haynes' connection to Massey began in 2019 when the cancer center named its new director Dr. Robert Winn.

"At that point, I was like OK, cancer, Black man. I need to introduce him to the Black community," Haynes said. "It's so important because sometimes cancer isn't something we really talk about in our community."

Dr. Robert Winn
Dr. Robert Winn

As COVID began to shut down the world in 2020, she connected Winn and 5th Street Baptist Church Pastor, F. Todd Gray.

"It was great to get through the pleasantries, but then we realized like wait a minute there's something crazy happening with COVID. There's a lot of misinformation in our community and others," she said.

That's when Facts and Faith Fridays was born.

"We not only talked about COVID, we talked about cancer. We talked about health disparities. We talked about social justice issues. People were wondering, 'How can I protest and not get COVID?,'" Haynes said.

The weekly Zoom community conversations got the attention of Dr. Anthony Fauci and First Lady Jill Biden.

Along with co-founding Facts and Faith Fridays, Haynes was doing all things Massey.

Then, her world stopped.

"November 30, 2022, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. How ironic was that," Haynes said.

Rudene Haynes
Rudene Haynes

Haynes' tumor was the size of a pea.

She had a lumpectomy and chemotherapy. It's the chemo that affected her the most with the loss of sleep and the loss of hair.

"Our hair is a big part of who we are and how we represent ourselves. So, when you lose that it's a bit humbling. But guess what, it grows back," Haynes, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, said.

Haynes' cancer journey includes being a part of clinical trials.

"Even if it doesn't personally help me, I want to make sure there's research and data out there to help someone else who might be diagnosed after me," Haynes said.

Nearly two years after her diagnosis, Haynes says her life has changed for the better.

Rudene Haynes
Rudene Haynes

"It gave me a perspective of what matters to me and it helped me get my life in order. I'm appreciative of that," Haynes said.

Haynes' journey will soon take her down Monument Avenue for the 10K. She said it's about giving back to a cancer center that cared for her.

"It's going to be amazing. I just feel gratitude for my journey," Haynes said.

The Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K is Saturday, April 20.

After the 10K, Massey will celebrate its Comprehensive status with a family-friendly carnival open to the public from Noon to 3 p.m. at the Siegel Center.

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