Her pink wig and fuschia tights were my first indication that the people involved with today’s Making Strides for Breast Cancer Walk in Point Pleasant, NJ were true believers – believers in celebrating life and finding a cure. The pink-haired lady would not be the last boldly dressed participant in the 5K walk. Whether it was the little boy wearing a “Tough Guys Wear Pink” t-shirt or the groups of people clothed in matching t-shirts featuring a picture or the name of the loved one who lost the battle, no one was being quiet about what they were there to do and support. Even the animals got into the day wearing t-shirts and sweaters and tutus. The toughest of breed loses some of its bite when wearing pink.
Walking for breast cancer awareness and research is not new. I was involved in my first walk back in 2000 in California. It was the Avon three-day walk and my client WebMD was a sponsor. Being part of the PR team had its benefits and I was asked to go but there really wasn’t any specific role that needed to be filled. So we walked and we cheered the ladies on. We got to go back to a fancy hotel at night while the walkers including several hundred survivors slept in tents. I met some very amazing women through my work with that walk and I always told myself that I would do it again. However, life got in the way and I never quite got to sign up for a three-day walk on my own. Since I was definitely not in shape to walk the number of miles for the three-day walk (if I remember correctly, one day’s trek was 22 miles), I chose a 5K at the beach.
The beach was the perfect backdrop for this event. I’ve always believed that there is something peaceful and serene about the beach and the ocean. As we made our way along the boardwalk, it was hard not to look at the beach and the seagulls resting in the glorious morning sun. While I bobbed and weaved to make my way through the slow people, I became keenly aware of the number of women wearing sashes that read “Survivor”. These women were walking and proud of it.
At mile 2.5 I was walking with the lead group matching stride for stride with a woman walking on Team Wegmans. We’d exchanged a few words about the benefits of walking fast while we were making our own moves on the boardwalk. But while she intrigued me, the man to the right of me holding the hand of a young girl caught my attention. While I don’t know his story, I had to wonder who was he walking for? Was he parenting this girl alone because her mother died from breast cancer? I’ll never know the answer to those questions but it just points to the fact that everyone who walked today had a story.
Beyond the fundraising and the sea of pink garb, the reality is that according to the American Cancer Society Report titled “Breast Cancer Facts and Figures 2011-2012” , “an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women and approximately 39,520 women are expected to die from breast cancer.” The report goes on to say that “Currently, a woman living in the US has a 12.15%, or a 1 in 8, lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.”
One in eight scares me. Does it scare you?