Breast Cancer Awareness Walks Create a Bond of Sisterhood

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • “I’ve got your back.”

    How many times have you heard guys say that to each other? Never? Then you just haven’t hung around guys in groups enough.

    This message refers to the support men give one another on the battlefield—the real, bombs-flying battlefield, or the one painted with white lines and surrounded by a stadium of cheering sports fans. It means, “Do what you have to do; I’ve got you covered. No one is going to sneak up on you, because I’m here; I’m protecting you. I’ve got your back.”

    In less than 48 hours, I’ll be walking in our cancer center’s annual fundraiser. This community-wide event attracts more than 3,000 walkers and cyclists—as individual participants, and banded together into over 250 teams. Last year we set a record of $1.7 million raised in a single day. This year, with a tanked economy and the stare-down we’re having with heating oil prices (which in this neck of the woods are nearly double what they were last year—almost $5/gallon), the total will probably top out at around $1.5 million.

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    Still, it’s a nice chunk of change. And it all stays right at our cancer center, going towards cutting-edge research, research the government and even the drug companies won’t fund. Research by some of the best young (read: unproven) scientists in the world. Research that, I swear, will someday soon lead to a cure for cancer.

    I captain a team in this event. Team TGIF (yup, Thank God It’s Friday) is a bunch of about 30 women in various stages of breast cancer. We range in age from mid-30s to mid-60s, with the majority of us in our 50s. One of our group is 10 years out. One just found out yesterday the results of her sentinel node biopsy. Yeah, it’s spread. Sigh…

    Two of us have died. Two are growing their hair back after chemo. All of us, except those still in treatment, have long-standing issues as a result of surgery, or chemo, or radiation. Cancer is real to us; no matter how many years out we are, it’s still in our face, still making our feet hurt, our bones deteriorate, our hair thin, feet tingle, scars itch, and our joints ache. You never get over cancer; you just get past it. But that doesn’t mean you love life less, simply because it’s a physical challenge. You actually love it more, because you realize it could be taken from you at any moment.

    I just sent out the final (of many) pre-walk reminders to my team. (Hey, YOU try organizing a bunch of post-menopausal women with chemobrain!) I feel my passion for these women growing. We’ve all chosen to pound the pavement on what’s predicted to be a hot, muggy July Saturday, putting in the miles so that down the road, another woman won’t face the battle we’ve fought.

    Tamoxifen-induced weight gain, achy knees from Arimidex, the fatigue of recent surgery–nothing will stop us. We’re moving forward, walking 20K to help cure cancer. And the best part is, none of us is alone.

    We’ve got each other’s backs.

Published On: July 10, 2008