Race for the Cure will raise awareness, spirits

Maybe it’s your friend, neighbor or even your co-worker badgering you once again to join them for another fundraiser walk. What could it be this time? March of Dimes? Leukemia? AIDS? All of them worthy causes, for sure. But, chances are, if you find yourself staring at a pink and green brochure, it’s for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s Race for the Cure.

On Sept. 17 it’s Seattle’s turn to host the 5K run/walk that has become so popular that cities all across the country hold their own versions of the Race for the Cure.

Those people questioning what good a walk around the University of Washington does to fight breast cancer obviously haven’t been to one before. There’s still time to lace up your sneakers and head for Husky Stadium. Prepare to dash some stereotypes and misconceptions about the kind of woman who gets breast cancer.

Wait until the first time you see a beautiful, robust young woman pushing a baby stroller and wearing the signature pink cap that tells the world she is a breast cancer survivor. It’s tough not to stare and wonder, "How could someone so young get this disease?" "Isn’t she terrified of recurrence?" Wait till you see all the "in memory of" nametags pinned to people’s backs in honor of their loved ones. And the pink-capped survivors healthy enough to zip past you in the 5K race will put you to shame.

This is not a solemn event or tearful reunion, however. In fact, it’s a time for celebration. And breast cancer survivors have good reason to party. According to the Komen Foundation’s Web site, early detection of the disease greatly increases a woman’s chance for survival and a greater quality of life.

Still, as the foundation warns, there is no known cure for advanced breast cancer. Last year, it was estimated that 175,000 American women would get the disease (one woman every three minutes). A little more than 43,000 women were expected to die from it (one woman every 12 minutes). Although this disease mostly afflicts women, men can get it, too.

It may be easy to dismiss such fundraisers as insincere or unproductive. That’s simply not the truth. And such an attitude misses the point. Beyond the money that is generated for a good cause, these fundraisers raise awareness. That’s critical — especially with breast cancer. The more women who know about breast self-exams and treatment options, the better the survival rate. In this case, awareness may save lives.

Also, these events introduce us to people with fascinating stories we haven’t heard before — stories about life after breast cancer.

Maybe this race really isn’t the one for you. That’s OK. You can’t join every club, run every race or fight for every cause. But you can discover what you’re passionate about and do what you can to help.

Every year Seattle’s Race for the Cure seems to get bigger and bigger until the route is choked with runners and walkers who can’t move and inch through the bottleneck. And every year it makes one wonder how many women in the pink caps are running the race for the last time.

For more information about the race or breast cancer check out the foundation’s Seattle affiliate’s Web site at www.seattleraceforthecure.org. The race hotline number is 206-667-6700.

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