I was holding up my camera to get a good shot of the enormous crowd, 24,000 participants, when my friend asked, "Are you going to write an article about this?" I told her "No". I had no intention of doing so at the time. But that was a week ago.
This Race For The Cure was my fourth, something I do in support of a cousin, a niece, and a close friend. I once did the 5K on a cruise ship with a tee shirt that read, "On Deck For The Cure".
My friend and I blend easily into the sea of pink humanity, some running, some walking over the hot California pavement toward the balloon-arched finish line. Participants find their personal ways to express support for loved ones lost, and those battling breast cancer today. Full color portraits hang on the back of some shirts, names handwritten on pink sheets on the back of others. I counted 14 names on one list!
A small dog displays a pink sheet with her own personal message.
On curbs people cheer those walking and running. They hold up homemade signs demanding, "Save the Cocoanuts", Save the Ta-Tas", and my favorite, "Big and Small - Save Them All". The levels of support from the curb go deep. Local high school cheerleaders spur us on, live musical groups entertain us, boy scouts hand us cups of water.
As the fun moves to a close at the finish line, a sweet voice comes over the loud speaker. It's an interview with the youngest patient ever to be diagnosed with breast cancer - a little girl, ten-years-old. A sobering end to the race.
My tee shirts hang in the closet. I've bought pink things, teal things, and every pretty color assigned to all these ugly, unrelenting diseases. I've participated in Yoplait's Save Lids to Save Lives program. I've critiqued wigs, witnessed the dry cracked hands caused by drugs, and researched online to try to understand why people surrounding me are so sick. I've told one lame joke after another, and shared uplifting stories while watching a Chemo cocktail drip into someone else's arm, because that's what friends are for.
I recently was part of a discussion about this fund raising event and found myself defending the Susan Komen 5K races when someone asked how it is that a ten-year-old has breast cancer after more than 25 years of races that raise money for the cure? I don't have that answer. All I know is, I keep 5 "K"ing, because I'm afraid to stop, afraid for those around me. I have to believe there will be a cure someday for breast cancer, gynecological cancers and more. The Komen races have decidedly accomplished a huge goal, to raise awareness of how prevelant one particular cancer is, and how many people are impacted. But before there's a cure, there has to be awareness.
If you don't have a close friend, relative, or co-worker stricken with cancer, you lead a charmed life, indeed. In CA alone, there are 21,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year. What are the statistics in your state? What are your chances?
If you don't think your participation can matter, that your single contribution can amount to anything, think of the challenge facing Susan Komen's sister Nancy, after she made a promise to Susan to change breast cancer treatment, and the way the world treats breast cancer. This one woman's mission resulted in a sea of pink on a hot California Sunday a week ago. Nancy kept her promise. Whether you walk or run, every step makes a difference.
Get free stencil and instructions for painting a "Finally Cancer-Free" Shirt.