On Sunday, October 14, I walked a mile in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to raise awareness of inflammatory breast cancer. I wrote last week about how it felt to walk it, and how hard it was, just 3 days after chemo, but I want to share with you all a bit of what I saw at the race.
I didn’t know what to expect. I had never been to a benefit walk before, and I hadn’t run a race since high school. I had read blogs of friends who had done a walk for breast cancer, and I diligently bought and read a beautiful photoessay book called Why We Walk, but I wasn’t sure how the walk would speak to me. Would it be a great big massive upwelling of support and tears? Would survivors who had never met hug each other and be all gushy? Would I be overcome at the sight of the thousands of walkers united to raise money, awareness, and support for those with a breast cancer diagnosis?
What would that cold morning in October bring?
As it turns out, the race was a beautiful, unifying event, but not exactly in the way I expected. There were 32,000 walkers registered, raising $2.7 M, all walking in the same direction, at the same time, with determination to fight this cancer in any way that they could. It was a stunning reminder of the number of women and men that are affected each year by breast cancer.
But there weren’t as many pink shirts as I expected.
I should back up a little. Susan G. Komen For The Cure was founded to honor Suzy Komen, who was diagnosed 25 years ago at the age of 33. She lived 3 years after her diagnosis. Her sister, Nancy Brinker (now a DC local) founded the organization and the race in her honor. Every year, at every race, the survivors don pink shirts and hats, and are feted with roses, stickers (for their hats — one for every year), music, and giveaways from local or national companies. The pink hats and shirts make survivors easy to pick out in a crowd. (They also turned my simple red hoodie into a cacophony of colors fighting amongst one another; but that was my dumb luck. The weather turned so quickly I forgot a winter coat and had to make do with red hoodie and scarf. I never realized how COLD my neck would get without my long hair to cover it.) Whereas the white shirts of the other walkers and runners were covered with tiny sponsor names and logos, the back of each pink shirt was adorned simply with the words:
I walk for those who have walked before me
and for those who walk beside me
It made a statement.
On the one hand, the number of women in the pink shirts was dwarfed by the sheer number of supporters that they had brought with them. I was, in some weird way, thrown off at the fact that I didn’t see dozens of young survivors, moms my age, walking around with their babies in strollers and toddlers at hand. I had expected it.
On the other hand, even one pink shirt is too many. This disease affects entirely too many women and men. We have to find a better way to screen for this disease and prevent its development … before it becomes so deadly. We really do.
With that in mind, I should mention that I walked not for myself, but with my mother-in-law, Jane, who I love, and for my internet friends LawMom, Stella, Aimee, Angela, and all of my IBC sisters who are fighting for their lives. Their names were on my back as I walked that day, and I thought of each of them often.
This is getting really long. I’m going to continue this in my next post. Please bear with me, and leave comments on the next post if you’ve got ’em.
Little Bear and Widget, all bundled up against the cold October morning. Aren’t these blankets gorgeous? The blue one was a baby gift from WhyDaddy’s aunt; the yellow one was hand-knit by Grammy, and the pink one was quilted by a friend of ours from BREW beagle rescue, and given to us by the whole group. Absolutely lovely. And warm.