Last week-end I spent the entire time with breast cancer survivors at the Race for the Cure in Portland, OR. We have one of the largest races in the country with over 45,000 participants. The sea of pink is beautiful and the faces of those personally touched by breast cancer were beautiful.
The Race for the Cure is more than a way to raise awareness and money for breast cancer. It is a way to pay tribute to those fighting this deadly disease and for those in the fight to honor those who support them through their journey. But even more, it is about hope.
I participated for the first time in 1996. I was right in the midst of treatment for my first diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer, but somehow I felt compelled to be there. I was a little nervous about being out in public with my bald head, but I did it anyway. It was crowded and crazy…and inspiring. The emotions I experienced when I saw my name on the “In Celebration of…” signs pinned on my friend’s shirts as they started the walk with me is something I will never forget. I didn’t know the signs were a tradition, so seeing it the first time brought tears to my eyes. I felt loved and supported in ways I had not experienced.
I wore pink that day too. I had my pink hat and my pink survivor t-shirt. As I trudged along the race route, in between chemo treatments, I found myself envying the people who got in line ahead of me and were already done. I remember counting down the kilometer markers…5, 4, 3, 2 and finally my last marker appeared and I knew the end was near. But what I didn’t expect was that as I approached the end, I was really about to find a new beginning.
As I noticed people lining the streets to cheer on the walkers, I suddenly came to a place near the end where I could actually hear the announcers. One voice came over the P.A. system said, “Here comes another survivor now!” I turned to look and realized I was the only pink hat/pink shirt around – she was talking about me! The crowds roared and those lining the street began to clap and cheer at ME! My bald head was no longer something I needed to cover. Instead, it became my badge of courage.