Pretty in Pink
The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure holds deep significance for women affected by breast cancer
Pink is the color of lipstick, bubble gum and quintessential femininity. However, for members of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, pink represents their fight to eradicate breast cancer forever. Indiscriminate of race or income bracket, breast cancer is an insidious disease that can afflict all women regardless of profession, race or income bracket.
The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, founded by Nancy G. Brinker as a promise to her dying sister, has valiantly raised funds for cutting-edge breast cancer research and education since 1982. The foundation’s mission to save lives and eliminate breast cancer has fueled the breast cancer movement across the globe. Today, the nonprofit foundation, which has raised more than $1 billion, is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists. The Komen Houston Affiliate has been one of the most active chapters of the organization since it was established in 1990. Over the last 16 years, the Houston branch has funded more than $12.4 million in grants for breast health education, screening and treatment. Their biggest event, the Komen Race for the Cure, raised more than $3 million last year and included 1,800 breast cancer survivors among the 26,000 participants.
The Komen Race for the Cure is not only an important fundraising tool but also an event that holds deep emotional significance for many of its participants. Kathy Waite, a schoolteacher in Katy and co-chair of this year’s Race for the Cure, began participating in the race as homage to her aunt who passed away from the disease. Waite recalls her most poignant race memory: “I remember seeing a little boy, four years old, with a T-shirt saying ‘In memory of my mom,’…. It is so important that people understand what it’s for and why we’re doing this.”
Lourdes Hernandez, also a race co-chair and a breast cancer survivor, is no newcomer to the event. “My first race was in 1993, and I’ve participated in every race since then, including the year I was undergoing treatment [for breast cancer]. My husband and I walked the 1K,” she recalls.
As a former corporate attorney, Hernandez balanced work and family life until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995. “I did not have time for what I was doing, never mind breast cancer. That was kind of like a gorilla that was thrown on the top of my to-do list … I fought it and said, ‘I’m not going to put that on my list,'” she says. After a mastectomy and breast reconstruction, Hernandez successfully won her first bout with cancer. She battled the disease with gusto for a second time when she was diagnosed with an invasive breast cancer on her chest wall four-and-a-half years ago.
Hernandez has met many women through her struggles with cancer, including Dorothy Paterson, a vivacious mother of two and retired geologist for Marathon Oil Corporation. Paterson was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer at age 42. With help from what she describes as her “incredible army of loving friends and family,” she is a defiant cancer survivor who devotes much of her free time to the Komen Houston Affiliate. Looking back, Paterson says, “It has been an incredible journey for the last nine years, so when I run in the race this year, I will be celebrating my nine-year anniversary of being cancer-free.”
While these are stories of cancer survivors, many of Hernandez’s and Paterson’s close friends have not been as lucky. Paterson tears up as she speaks of Julie Maas, a neighbor, mother of two and friend, who is a breast cancer patient in her last weeks of life. Paterson says, “it is hard to lose a loved one, but it fuels my fire and determination to do everything I possibly can to end breast cancer.”
As National Breast Cancer Awareness Month approaches in October and the ubiquitous pink ribbons abound, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation hopes to call attention to the fact that anyone with breasts, regardless of age, is at risk. Hernandez, who was able to fight cancer with the help of early detection, warns: “This disease affected us directly of course, but you know, it’s not theoretical. It is very, very real.”
The 2007 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, themed “Imagine a World Without Breast Cancer,” will start on Satuday, Oct. 6 in Sam Houston Park Downtown at 7:45 a.m. The race will have a Family Walk, Kids 1K, 5K timed competition, 5K noncompetitive run and 5K walk. In addition, the third annual Sleep in for the Cure is available for late-risers who still wish to raise money. Seventy-five percent of the net funds raised from the race will go towards local breast health organizations while 25 percent will be used for national research grants.