My niece had invited me to join her and her mother at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. For a country girl, a trip to downtown St. Louis with its snarled traffic and large crowds held no appeal. I declined.
After hanging up, I became overwhelmed with thoughts about breast cancer’s grip on my family. A routine mammogram in my forties revealed I had fallen prey to the dreaded disease. Several years later, my youngest sister followed in my footsteps. We shared turbans and tears and rejoiced when she joined the survivor club. But shortly before celebrating her five-year cancer-free milestone, the horrid disease appeared in her right breast. Luckily, once again, she beat the odds. Soon afterward, my daughter-in-law was diagnosed late in her pregnancy. She passed away shortly after her baby’s first birthday.
Clearly, I belonged at that race. I called my niece and announced, “Count me in!”
The morning of the event, I donned my pink survivor shirt, looked in the mirror, and smiled. We arrived at the event and marched over to the registration area to get our numbers. I blinked back tears when I spotted the huge sea of pink – fellow survivors.
Heredity links were evident – more than blue eyes and curly hair ran in many families. Bystanders wore T-shirts boasting victories – celebrating Moms, Sisters, Aunts, Nieces. One family proudly displayed posters of their elderly mother on a motorcycle, wearing a pink shirt and a huge grin. Others weren’t so fortunate. They held up signs: In Memory of “Grandma, Mom, Sister, Cousin.”
A tower of pink balloons with the renowned St. Louis Gateway Arch in the background designated the starting line. Survivors began to march forward as bands and singers serenaded. Cheerleaders chanted, “I am the cure!”
Rugged-looking bikers clad in pink, some with beards and hair dyed to match, rooted us on from their Harleys. With each stride, my heart swelled with pride.
The energy grew as we rounded a corner and merged into a large group from a local radio station. Their T-shirts displayed “I Love My Girls.” A fraternity pledged, “Big or Small – Save Them All.” A group of football players sported pink “Go Boob” shirts. A chorus of voices cheered us on.
As we crossed the finish line, volunteers thrust long-stemmed pink roses in the arms of each survivor. Tears fell as I inhaled the sweet aroma from the flowers, proud to be part of so many courageous women – sisters in our fight against breast cancer.
On the way home, our group stopped for lunch. The server glanced at our survivor T-shirts and high-fived my sister and me. Customers sitting in nearby booths applauded.
An elderly gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I saw you on television. I’m glad you’re doing okay.”
We didn’t know it then, but only a few years later, my middle sister would also battle breast cancer. Thankfully, she too beat the disease.
I feel sure that someday a cure will be found, rendering the sea of pink totally dry. Until then, my family and I intend to support our ‘sisters’ along their journey.