2017 Komen Race for the Cure was #MoreThanPink!

Each year since my diagnosis, I reflect on what the Komen Race for the Cure means to me. It rolls around soon after my cancerversary, so it’s a good reminder of the sh-t that happened/is happening in my body and to so many others. I usually get sentimental, fearful, hopeful, and a million other ‘-fuls,’ but the first piece I wrote for this post back in March was dark and depressing. I’m glad I held that post and waited for the mood to pass, because I’d much rather share hope with you than what I was feeling a few months ago.

I’m a 4-year survivor!

Still, the bottom line is that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. One of the Komen organization’s goals is to reduce breast cancer deaths by 50% by 2026. Fifty percent! That is a serious goal for a serious disease, and I have every faith we can do this. To everyone who supports the Komen organization and groups like it, thank you.

By race day, I was feeling more upbeat. Even though I still cried during the survivor celebration, the weeks leading up to and the day of were fun! Fun, because I did a goofy thing (imagine that). To help reach my fundraising goal, I agreed to color my hair pink if I raised $2,000. Well holy Hubba Bubba, Batman, the cash came pouring in!

This is Katelyn. She’s magical.
Katelyn mixed up her potion…
…and did this! #pinktastic

Not only did friends, family, and some folks I don’t even know donate to the cause, one of my hair stylists (yes, I have two because I’m special like that) donated her primo coloring talent to make the pink happen. Can a girl be more blessed than that?

My niece flew in from Chicago to do the walk with me (squee!), so not only did I hit my fundraising goal out of the park with a grand total of $2,715, I also got to share the walk with two of my best lady friends and a little slice of family. I got to keep sister’s daughter here for a few days and spend some girly/family/let’s-eat-at-every-restaurant-in-town time like we’ve never done before. Color me delighted!

The team! I love these ladies!
We walk for hope and to never forget the beautiful souls lost.

Although the walk has been walked, Miss Niece flew back home, and the pink has faded from my hair, the funds raised and the work done toward finding a cure for cancer is indelible. We will cut breast cancer deaths in half by 2026, and we’re just getting started.

Cheers!
Kelly

Komen Race for the Cure 2015

First and foremost, thank you to everyone who supported me in the Race for the Cure this year and in years past. Your kindness and generosity are astounding, and I am humbled.

The topic of breast cancer is near and dear to me. The disease is near, well, because I’ve had it and am in remission, and the fight against it is dear to me because I would love for all the little girls growing up now to never have to worry about such things. How great would that be?

Each year the Race for the Cure seems to take on a slightly varied meaning for me, and this year was no different. I walked in memory of my brother-in-law’s mother who was lost to breast cancer too many years ago. Even though I never met her, I was honored to wear Carron’s name and bring her into this beautiful, pink army against breast cancer.

As always, I arrived in good spirits. Truth be told, I was giggling at myself for kindly, and pointedly, explaining that my VIP parking pass was never provided to me when the parking attendant asked me to turn my map over. It read “VIP Parking Pass.” Ha!

Laughing is entirely appropriate because the Race for the Cure is an opportunity to celebrate the fact that we are alive. There is music, there are concession stands, a sea of people, and there is an infectious, upbeat vibe. Yet every year when we actually begin walking, and I start reading the “In Celebration of” and “In Memory of” signs on the backs of thousands of people, I get choked up. I am overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, fear, gratitude, guilt, and hope.

Susan G. Komen Walkers
Each pink sign carries the name (some list several names) of someone diagnosed with breast cancer, either “In Celebration of” or “In Memory of”

Whether my friends notice how quiet I am for the first minute or two, I’m not sure, but it’s because I am on the verge of tears. If I speak, I will cry. I think of those who were not as fortunate as me, those whose battles have been long and painful, and the loved ones left behind. I give myself a minute to process that load of emotions, and I have the self-talk. Kelly, get it together–this is a glorious day. And then I walk.

Writing my message on the Susan G. Komen Wall of Hope
Writing my message on the Wall of Hope

Thank you for understanding why I walk, for supporting me with your generous and thoughtful donations, your well-wishes and prayers, and for walking with me. It truly means the world to me.

Cheers,
Kelly

Komen Race for the Cure 2014 – A Different Experience

It’s been one week since the Komen race, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve talked about my cancer. I think about it pretty much every day, but I typically don’t discuss it unless someone asks. I’m not averse to the topic but don’t bring it up, and I have a few ideas about why, but that’s for another post.

What brings up the word at least annually is the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. This organization has done so much to fund research, education, and screening; and it has raised awareness of breast cancer to the level of being an everyday topic of conversation. That, my friends, is awesome.

I’ve done the walk in years past, before I was touched by breast cancer. It was another walk to do, an event. Then, as you know, at last year’s race I was a three-month survivor. I think I performed well and held it together as graciously as anyone would have at that point, but looking back, I now realize I was an emotional mess. I knew factually what my situation was – survival rate, etc., but I hadn’t had time yet to fully process how I felt about it. What it really meant to me personally and not simply statistically.

Add to that some deeply personal issues I was dealing with (the heartache and turmoil of a marriage that was over before it began), the fact that I was running late that morning and was near tears over possibly missing the survivor photo, a sprinkle of chaos finding my team members, and voila! you have a girl walking who is cheery and smiling one moment, contemplative the next, and lip quivering during the survivor parade. The. Entire. Parade. (and cried during the ceremony that followed).

Let me tell you how this year looked. Arrived with time to spare. Simply stood in one spot while every one of my team members appeared over a period of maybe five minutes. Walked, talked and laughed for 3.1 miles, was ravenously hungry by 9:30 a.m., and unabashedly danced and sang throughout the survivor parade. Wow, what a difference a year makes!

I graduated from the under 1 year group to the 1 to 4 year survivor group. I got to enjoy the food truck rodeo this year, and I indulged in a bottle of Coke. You are gasping in disbelief because of the sugar thing, but let me explain…I let myself splurge on the big day, AND, I drank maybe 1/3 of it before it went in the trash. It tasted weird. I was craving a Coke, but when I took a nice big, cold drink of it, I thought why am I drinking thick brown manufactured syrup? It made me more thirsty. Water please!

Team Live. Run. Cure! was ready to walk!
(one team member actually ran the race and another ran to the event, so the team name wasn’t a total bust)
The parade felt a little different for me this year 🙂

I know in previous posts I talked about perspective and how being diagnosed with cancer completely changed mine. Well, it continues to change, and that’s a good thing because as well as I thought I was a year ago, I’m even better now. I am not perfect and there are no guarantees, but I am happy and I am well. I am very well. For 15 months I have not forgotten to be thankful for that.

I hope I continue to celebrate every day like it’s a parade, and I hope I am always thankful.

Cheers!
Kelly

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