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Burb's Eye View: His race isn't run just yet

March 25, 2011

Dustin Hucks crossed his own personal finish line beat up and tired. The run from Burbank to Lubbock, Texas in 2009 was supposed to take a month, was supposed to raise $1 million for cancer research and was supposed to begin with a media sendoff in Johnny Carson Park that could bolster his spirits for most of his 1,120-mile journey.

But on the day he left, his 29th birthday, no reporters came to Johnny Carson Park. And instead of raising $1 million, the screenwriter and journalist from Hollywood raised $1,000.

His road crew abandoned him three weeks in, taking their RV and supplies with them.

When Hucks’ aunt, Debbie Yoakum, saw him finally arrive in Lubbock, which is his home town, it was the end of weeks of worry. Though she didn’t make the journey with him physically, she said she was by his side mentally and taking every step with her nephew. On the day he finished, she watched him approach, flanked by a police escort, and no longer had to wonder whether he would sleep under a roof that night.

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“The minute I saw him turn that corner I was so proud of him,” said Yoakum, herself a stage 4 lymphoma patient.

Hucks has had a couple years to reflect on the odyssey — a stunt, really — that he hoped was big enough, and maybe crazy enough, that it would get a lot of attention, which he could then direct toward the larger problem — finding a cure for people like Aunt Debbie. He considers the run from Burbank to Lubbock a success — it still raised $1,000, and if that’s the money that enables the cure to be found, then it was worth it.

It was worth it for other reasons, as well. The solo experience allowed Hucks to meet cancer survivors in Arizona and New Mexico — where people contracted the disease by living near open-pit uranium mines. He discovered what he was made of — enduring three staph infections and three bouts of flu. Traversing a third of the country on foot will do that to you. It also provided him an opportunity to see his sister one last time. A few months later, she died in a car accident.

There was also Aunt Debbie, and the other people in Hucks’ life who had cancer. They’re still out there, and as Hucks put it, they’re “dealing with the chemo and fighting … and if they can do that, I can spend three months suffering on the side of the highway.”

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