Making Strides in the fight against breast cancer

By Martie Thompson
editor@floridanewsline.com

October is widely recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the American Cancer Society has scheduled its 5K Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Jacksonville to correspond with this. This walk, to be held on Saturday, Oct. 13 beginning at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, aims to not only raise awareness but also funds to save lives from breast cancer.

This event raises money to fund innovative research, provide free information and support, and to help people reduce their breast cancer risk or find it early when it’s most treatable,” said Karen Babcock, senior community development manager with the American Cancer Society. “From the opening ceremony to the post-walk entertainment, the Making Strides event is a celebration of survivors and opportunity to remember loved-ones lost.”

Event chair Stacy Hanson, one of the many volunteers who works tirelessly to bring this event to fruition, says her role is to manage the event’s committee and vice chairs, motivate the teams, and be a leader for the Making Strides event by telling her personal story. Hanson has Stage IV, Metastatic Triple Negative Breast Cancer, as well as having the BRCA1 gene, the “horrible trifecta,” according to her.  

Last year was her first year involved with Making Strides as a walker and this year she is the event chair, a testament to her drive and perseverance. She believes the American Cancer Society is a great organization and that there are many benefits to having a local Making Strides event, to include bringing the community together for a good purpose where people can walk, at their own pace, in teams of friends, families and colleagues, in support of those who have breast cancer. Specifically this year, she said emphasis will be placed on awareness of Stage IV cancer.

“I believe we are on the precipice of a cure,” Hanson said. “But it takes a lot of money. And early detection, while extremely important, gets a lot of attention and research dollars. I think Stage IV needs more attention. There is no change in the number of deaths from Stage IV breast cancer over the years.”

She pointed out that  there is no cure for Stage IV like the lesser stages. She said that with Stage IV, the best one can hope for is to be termed NED — No Evidence of Disease. For the past year and a half, Hanson has been in a lifesaving clinical trial and her tumor has decreased by 98 percent and continues to show regression, but she is not NED yet.
“I am fortunate that I have resources and access to care,” Hanson said. “The American Cancer Society can help others with these things that I was fortunate to get on my own.”

This sentiment is echoed by Jacksonville Sponsorship Chair and Southeast Region Event Chair, 23-year volunteer Cynthia Farah, herself a five-year survivor. She said she was aware of the American Cancer Society from her career at St. Vincent’s Medical Center and had walked in the Making Strides event prior to her diagnosis.

Farah said two of the key missions of the American Cancer Society are patient services, such as volunteers driving patients with no family or friends available to treatment (“Road to Recovery”), and research.

“The American Cancer Society really does what it says it will do,” Farah said. “I didn’t have to use all of their services, but it was good for me emotionally to know the ACS was there. You don’t have to go through this alone, in absence of family. No one should have to face cancer alone.”

Farah said she felt the most important messages are that early detection is key, don’t give up hope, and do everything you can in the fight: volunteer, donate, and take care of yourself.

Hanson felt that it is important, especially this month, to “Think before you Pink.”

“In some ways, I think breast cancer awareness has become very commercialized,” Hanson said. “Pay attention to what you are buying and what you are supporting. Also, we are all aware of breast cancer now… but what is next? Research and community health care are very important and these are the things I am advocating for.”

Visit www.makingstrideswalk.org for more information about the Making Strides Walk, including how to sign up or make a donation. Visit www.cancer.org for more information about the American Cancer Society.

Photos courtesy Sight and Sound

Approximately 10,000 people participated in last year’s Making Strides walk, the largest American Cancer Society event in Jacksonville.