Komen Race for the Cure 2013

This past Saturday, June 8 was the Komen Race for the Cure here in Raleigh. I’m pretty sure you all know about the organization, but here it is just in case. Susan Komen fought breast cancer and lost. Even in her last days, she was adamant about helping others with breast cancer. Her sister, Nancy, made a promise that she would do everything she could to end breast cancer forever. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization was created and is “the global leader of the breast cancer movement, having invested more than $1.9 billion since inception in 1982.” Worldwide, no other nonprofit provides more funds to fight breast cancer. This is huge. It’s frightening to ponder where we would be in this fight if it weren’t for Komen. I realize there are other organizations whose contributions are invaluable, and I don’t mean to debase any of them, but what if we were $1.9 billion behind our current position? Research, screening, treatment. That is a humbling thought. Thank God for Nancy making good on a promise to her sister Susan.

I’ve done this race before (walked the 5k and ran the 1 mile), but having an entirely different perspective this year made for a very powerful experience. Ken was with me, and I invited a few of my closest friends to join as well. Being that I’m just three months post-diagnosis and this is all new to me both chronologically and emotionally, my strategy was to keep the group small, intimate, so the whole world wouldn’t see me cry.

The team

Well I didn’t think that through, now did I? Do you know how many people do the race? Ha!  Next year I’ll be ready for a full-court press “Team Kelly” and will try to recruit everyone – the wallpaper if I can!

We were running a little late that morning, which is unbelievable since the alarm went of at 5:15 AND I got up at 5:15. But there we were, rushing to get there in time for the survivor’s photo. I so wanted to be in it. We parked on the street about a quarter mile from the campus, and jogged from the car. We got there in plenty of time. Whew! We had time to walk through the survivor’s tent where I was given the signature pink hat. I was welcomed and everyone was ridiculously kind. Gentle, actually. Thank goodness for the hat because by the time the survivor photo was taken the humidity had already done a number on my hair. Even Ken said I was looking a little frizzed. So Saturday I was a hat girl.

A girl and her hat

We, in our pink survivor shirts, lined up in the shape of the pink ribbon for the photo, and we all cheered and shouted the number of years (months for me) since our diagnosis. Lord did the photographer have patience – every time he snapped a shot a few more ladies would rush over to get in the picture. After maybe four iterations of that, we had it. We (me, Ken and Kathy) bumped into him a little later and we chatted a bit and he took our picture. So far it felt like a scene from Alice in Wonderland. I was interacting with people who were there to support me…not me personally, but me categorically, even though they didn’t know me. It was sort of odd. And wonderful.

At 8:30 we all shuffled out of the Meredith campus and onto Hillsborough Street. You laugh, but yes, we shuffled. There are so many who do the race that if you’re not right up front, once the race begins it takes 10 to 15 minutes to actually get to the start line. We spread out a little bit once we got going – at the 1 mile mark we had some breathing room.

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People lined up along the route as cheerleaders and to watch and show their support. It truly is an uplifting and powerful feeling to know so many folks are rooting for you. One woman sat in her picture window watching the sea of walkers pass by. She waved and we waved back. It made me wonder what her story might be. Is she 1 in 8? I loved waving to her in that moment.

Some of the homes along the route decorated for the event or put signs out to show support. One house had pink booby windsocks hanging from its porch and had bras hanging from a tree, lots and lots of bras! It was another spot of fun in an otherwise weighty day. We finished in 1.5 hours. Not bad for lolly gagging, taking pictures, and making a pit stop along the way 🙂

See the windsock boobies on the porch?
Bra tree
The finish line!

We got back to campus after 10:00, and it was already time for the survivor’s ceremony. I lined up behind my respective sign carrier in the “under 1 year” group. We marched together onto the field while everyone cheered for us. Enter the lip quiver. I tried to smile but the more I did the more I quivered. Just a tear or two. Because my group walked out first, we were first to settle into our place on the field and we got to watch the other groups walk in. The 1 to 4 years, 5 to 9 years, and so on. It was about as emotional as it could be. Then the 30+ years group walked in. Now it was a cry fest. And for so many reasons. Selfishly, that’s the group I hope and pray to be in one day. Unselfishly, I thought about what those brave ladies have been through. Treatment 30 years ago wasn’t what it is today. I think everyone had chemo back then, and it wasn’t tailored to the individual. I was in awe and admiration and my heart broke.

Getting in line for the ceremony

The highlight: an 87-year-old lady took the stage – a 41 year survivor. 41 years! The emcee kept asking if she had any words of wisdom for all of us out there, and she kept pushing the microphone away (she seemed like a pistol…like my Mom!). She finally gave in and took the mike and said she just wanted us all to know that she outlived her doctor. Inspiration Nation! And thank Gawd for something to laugh about! We cheered for her and we cried for her. We cried for ourselves and for those to come after us. It was a priceless, welcomed, and needed moment. It was perfect.

Then the sky opened up and the rain came and we all ran. It’s funny what we’ll fight and what we’ll run from, isn’t it?

Cheers!
Kelly