When Karen Nomberg was first diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in August of 2003, it did not take her very long to take action and become a volunteer leader with Susan G. Komen. “She was not a person to sit idly by,” said Bernard Nomberg, her husband. “At her core, Karen was a philanthropist who lived every day to make an impact in our community from her work as an educator to co-founding the Heart Gallery Alabama, a nonprofit that raises awareness of adoption in our state. In 2004, we formed Team Kate – which was her childhood nickname – as a part of the Alabama Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.”
Following her initial diagnosis, Karen began treatment and underwent a lumpectomy, which was followed later by a mastectomy. For the next year, the family – which includes daughters Sidney and Emily – continued to live their everyday lives. Then came September 2006. “She started having symptoms, and I think she knew before anyone else that the cancer had returned,” Bernard said. “Unfortunately, when it came back, it came back with a vengeance as metastatic breast cancer.”
Karen did everything in her power to create as many memories as possible with her family, including a trip to Walt Disney World that Emily remembers fondly. “My mom loved Disney and we went as a family every year, but after her cancer returned, she really pushed for us to make that trip,” she said. “She was in the middle of chemotherapy, but she knew it would most likely be the last chance for us to make memories as a family. She was adamant she was going to make that trip.”
In 2006, the team changed its name to Team Kate Has Hope, in support of Karen and close family friend Hope McInerney, who was also living with metastatic breast cancer. Karen passed away in May of 2007, and the family continued to keep her legacy alive through their Race team, often recruiting 150 to 200 participants and being recognized as a top fundraising team. Then came 2020, and everything shut down, including Race for the Cure.
“I was sent home from college due to the pandemic, and I started running because I needed a way to get outside,” Emily said. “I knew the Race wasn’t going to happen, but I had to do something to support my mom’s legacy.” While brainstorming ideas with her dad, Emily came across a TikTok of a person who ran 24 miles in 24 hours. “I remember saying that it looked like a cool challenge, and it would be neat to see if I could actually do it.” That is how Em’s 24 in 24 was born.
For the inaugural year, Emily fundraised from August to September and raised more than $13,000. Her second year she raised more than $15,000 in donations. And both years, she ran all 24 miles over the course of 24 hours by herself. In 2023, she shifted the event from something she did on her own to an opportunity for others to join her. “I’m in my first year of medical school, so my schedule would not allow me to cover all 24 miles,” she said. “We created a sign-up sheet where friends and families could register to run one of the miles, and it just exploded. We had people running miles in Nashville, New York, Atlanta and Charlotte; people from all over who wanted to support the event.”
Em’s 24 in 24 raised more than $20,000 this year, which will be used to support breast cancer patients in Alabama with expenses of daily living through Komen’s Financial Assistance Program. “A lot of people who need the assistance live in rural areas and don’t have childcare or transportation to their appointments in larger cities,” Emily said. “My family was lucky to have insurance and a stable income during my mom’s treatment, but that’s not the case for everyone. Being able to support those with breast cancer when they need help the most is truly a wonderful thing.”
Komen’s DIY Fundraising allows fundraisers to decide where, when and how to raise money for Komen, while providing a variety of tools and resources to help supporters along the way. To learn more or start your own fundraiser, visit www.komen.org/fundraise.
Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.