Tara Ernske was understandably stunned when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Tara Ernske was understandably stunned when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Just 30 years old at the time, healthy and a registered nurse, she was crushed by news and had dreadful thoughts circulating in her head: mortality, treatment, future pregnancy, work, bills.

Nevertheless, she fought hard to keep up her spirits and is now working to help others do the same.

The German Village-area resident is one of five honorary co-chairwomen of the Komen Columbus Race for the Cure, slated for Saturday, May 14, in downtown Columbus.

Other honorees include: Ashlee Hunt of Lewis Center, Clorissa Ashley of the Hilltop area, Amber Preston of Powell and Brittany Beitel of Hilliard.

All honorees share a similar story, said Becca Thomas, director of events for Komen Columbus.

"This year, we really wanted to shed some light on the unique challenges younger women face as they battle breast cancer," Thomas said. "These young survivors have each turned their negative situations into a positive and have inspired all of us with their fight and subsequent outreach to their peers about breast health."

"Make sure you look for them on race day and congratulate them -- all five of them have been great ambassadors for the Komen Columbus Race for the Cure."

The cost is $35 for those age 18 or older, $30 for breast-cancer survivors, $20 for children ages 3 to 17 and $10 for children 2 and younger.

Online registration will remain open until noon Friday, May 13, at komencolumbus.org.

Participants can also register in person from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, May 12, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, May 13, at Easton Town Center or from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. race day, Saturday, May 14, at the Vern Riffe Center downtown.

At 8:45 a.m. on Front Street just north of Gay Street, the 5K race begins with runners, immediately followed by walkers. At 9:15 a.m., the family fun walk begins. Other activities will be held throughout the morning.

Ernske, now 32, was diagnosed with Stage I cancer and was given constant reassurances from her doctors.

"Everybody kept telling me, 'You're going to be fine, don't worry,' " she said.

But it was small comfort when she went through five months of testing, chemotherapy and other pharmaceutical regimens, a double mastectomy (a preventive measure, given her overall prognosis), and reconstructive surgery.

Ernske, a clinical nurse manager at Grant Medical Center, said she reached out to Komen.

"After I was all done with treatment and finished everything up, I really wanted to get involved and say, 'This really happens to young people,' " she said. "I am an open book. If my story can help one person going through treatment, I got cancer for a reason."