Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the number one cancer diagnosed in women, and the second cause of cancer deaths. But it’s not just a women’s issue – every year, around 2,000 men will be diagnosed, and 400 of them will die.
Last year, my good friend’s father was diagnosed with breast cancer the week before her wedding. They caught it early, and he’s cancer-free, thankfully. He was lucky enough to have a physician who trusted his instinct that something wasn’t quite right with the test results.
Kristin has always supported breast cancer research, and in addition to her dad, has two other female survivors in her family. This year she asked me to join her in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k, so at the crack of dawn this past Saturday I found myself driving to her house for my first-ever breast cancer event.
It’s not that I’ve never been a supporter of breast cancer research – I am. I think what the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the countless others are doing is amazing, I really do. Breast cancer is so prevalent, and it absolutely deserves to be supported. But, we all have limited resources, and must choose which causes to devote our time, energy, and money to. Breast cancer research has always been a lower priority for me. To be honest, I agreed to do the race because I wanted to support Kristin, and not because of a change in charitable priorities. Regardless, I’m happy to have helped.
We got there early enough to watch the sun rise, which was quite an experience. I was feeling all artsy-fartsy, and managed to snap this picture of the Sunsphere, that I’m super proud of. See the moon??!!
As a newbie, I had to be schooled in Race for the Cure ways. The white shirts are for supporters. The pink shirts are for survivors. I think it’s a brilliant idea…after all, seeing so many people in pink shirts suddenly takes breast cancer from the realm of “yeah I know that’s out there” to “wow, this is real…and these people are real.” It was so amazing, and so inspiring, and so humbling to see just how many people have survived breast cancer.
And it wasn’t just the survivors in the pink shirts that were inspiring. A good half (probably more) of the supporters were racing in memory or celebration of someone touched by breast cancer. Reading these signs was surreal. Some had pictures. Some had just one name, or one word: Mom. Some had “my best friend.” Many had multiple names. And then there was Kristin’s.
We walked the race, and I was blown away by the number of people there. All ages, all walks of life, showed up to support breast cancer research. At the finish line, survivors are sent to a separate line. They’re escorted by men in tuxes, and given a rose, and everyone cheers for them. (We did wonder what they did for the men, as there weren’t any ladies in ball gowns to escort them!) I’ll admit I got a little teary.
Whether you’re young or old, male or female, please educate yourself on breast cancer. Know the risks. Know YOUR risks, because everyone is different. Learn to do a self-check, and DO THEM. (None of us like them, but they’re important.) And next time you meet a cancer survivor – whether breast or not – congratulate them, for they are fearless and heroic and deserve to be celebrated.