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Jim Receives Spirit Award from the Minnesota Oncology Hematology Foundation
Chris Brewer of the Lance Armstrong Foundation presents award
MOHF Star Awards 2005On February 19, 2005, Jim was presented with the Spirit Award at the annual Star Awards banquet of the Minnesota Oncology Hematology Foundation (MOHF). The MOHF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the needs of cancer patients. Their mission is to improve the quality of life throughout the cancer experience by providing education, financial support, acts of kindness & caring and community events.

Jim was honored to have his friend Chris Brewer of the Lance Armstrong Foundation present him with the award. The following are Chris Brewer's remarks from the ceremony:

On behalf of Lance Armstrong, the Lance Armstrong Foundation and its CEO Mitch Stoller, and the entire Tour of Hope national cycling team, several of whom are here with us tonight, I'd like to thank you for this incredible opportunity. Many people within the cancer community look to Lance for inspiration and as a role model. And while Lance is indeed a good friend and a shining celebrity image, my heroes are less publicly known. Most of them are cancer survivors, and tonight I get the pleasure of introducing one of them to you: my good friend, Mr. Jim Owens.

The International Market Square venueJim's brain cancer was first discovered in April 1998 following a seizure while training for a marathon. He proposed to his wife Barb just 2 weeks later — I guess he figured at the time he might not have too much time left so he better move fast! I'm glad for once he was wrong...

Thankfully, radiation managed to shrink the tumor for several years, but then his cancer recurred in 2002. Chemotherapy stabilized his situation this time around, and then in 2004 he applied for and was accepted to ride on the Tour of Hope National Team, traveling right across America day and night with Lance Armstrong and an incredible set of teammates in just over 8 days.

Star Awards Honorees 2005But a few weeks after the Tour was completed, Jim got the news no cancer survivor ever wants to hear: his disease had returned and he was once again in the fight of his life. But thanks to one of his Tour of Hope teammates, Jim found out about a new clinical trial, and that has offered real hope that he may finally cross the finish line for active cancer treatment.

I want to take a few moments to tell you about some of the behind-the-scenes things Jim does that I truly admire — but don't worry Jim, it's all good, and what happens on the Tour bus stays on the Tour bus...

In Feb 1999, Jim was battling some of the after-effects of his treatments, primarily relating to seizures, and read about Lance's now-familiar story and pending return to professional cycling. He heard about an email based support group called "Cyclists Combating Cancer", or CCC as we commonly call it, and became close to the founder, Damon Phinney. Damon had prostate cancer and is the father of Davis Phinney, the winningest cyclist in American history and the "Lance" of his day. Jim finally had a support network that focused on community, healing, wellness, and physical activity to get better — in a word, "survivorship". CCC gave Jim a forum to focus outward, a place to talk about his strong and compassionate convictions. "Jim wants everyone to win," Barb says. He's an eternal optimist whose glass is always half full, or more likely, it's pouring right over the top.

Barb and Jim went to visit his parents one day and Jim was telling his dad about CCC and how he would receive hundreds of emails throughout the week and reply to many of them. His father's response was, "You don't have time to read all those emails, you need to be focusing on getting better." But this time his dad was wrong — this support group was just the medicine Jim had been looking for. Those hundreds of emails, and the emerging friendships they generated, provided a catalyst for Jim to move forward as a survivor, and not as a victim.

In February 2003, after finishing his first round of chemotherapy, Jim completed a 52K Nordic ski race known as the "Birkie", and he was wearing a ski suit signed by cancer patients being treated at the Minnesota Oncology & Hematology hospital. He skied because he could, and for all those who were struggling just to walk.

In February 2004, Jim skied the Birkie again [and again in 2005], but this time he did it with another cancer survivor, and they wore signs on their back stating, "Cancer is just another hill."

In May 2004 he was selected for the Tour of Hope cycling team and began a rigorous 16-week training program. It was at the training camp in Colorado Springs a few weeks later that I got to be on the receiving end of Jim's positive energy. I was asked to ride with the team on a grueling 3 mile uphill time trial in a Colorado canyon. I was determined to do well as I "bore the burden" of representing my 2003 teammates, and I surged ahead. As we settled into the heart-pounding rhythm of climbing in a race situation, I heard this guy behind me calling out, "I'm coming, Brewer! I'm coming!", a challenge that was clearly mixed with laughter. I was on the limit and had no more, and then this guy passes me, smiling all the way — "See you at the top, you can do it! Sorry I had to pass you..." — yeah, right! And who was there waiting for me at the top to be the first to congratulate me? Jim Owens. I just wished he looked like he had done some work, but he was soon gone, off to cheer on his other teammates still grinding their way upward.

Team Nails at MOHF Star AwardsAs the Tour of Hope rode across America, Jim was a huge inspiration and especially to his squad nicknamed "The Nails". His teammate Darren told me about their biggest challenge — again in Colorado and through a huge mountain pass. Colorado defined the entire team this year, getting through its majesty and high passes was truly intimidating. And on the day Jim's squad successfully went through their baptism of fire, it was Jim who said "There's no way anyone's pulling me off my bike!" — and while everyone certainly did their share, he was the lone rider to complete the entire stage, from start to finish.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that Jim is a huge supporter of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. His life basically defines survivorship — "Living with, through, and beyond cancer," and living strong. Jim joined the LAF's Peloton Project in 2001 and since then he has raised over $100,000. I can tell you that Jim also gives significant donations to other cancer survivors so that they, too, can come to Austin and experience the magic of the Ride for the Roses weekend, Jim's heart is that big.

I wrap up what I hope has been a fitting testament to one of my true heroes, I'd like to read you the Manifesto of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. And whenever you hear the word "We", put in Jim's name instead — it's fitting for the man we honor tonight.