A woman at my church announced last Sunday that she won't be at services tomorrow because she'll be at the 10th annual Susan G. Komen Northwest Ohio Race for the Cure in downtown Toledo.
Linda Reese is a breast cancer survivor going on four years now. I remember when she first announced the illness. Through tears and a crackling voice, she told fellow congregants about the importance of regular breast self-examinations and the need to be aware of the threat of cancer.
Tomorrow will be Mrs. Reese's eighth time in the northwest Ohio Race for the Cure. She joined the race after relatives were diagnosed with breast cancer.
Six hundred other breast cancer survivors will be there when the race begins at 9 a.m. at Lafayette and Summit streets.
From 11,000 to 12,000 women and men will run or walk in the 5K (3.1 miles) race. Some will walk one mile in the event, which will end at the Mud Hens' Fifth Third Field.
Runners, walkers, and supporters, don't check the weather reports. Rain or shine, the race will go on. By Wednesday, more than 8,000 people had registered, far more than the number of people who had registered that early in previous years. Overall, 76 percent of the participants are women, not surprisingly, and 24 percent are men.
“People are embracing this year's race more than before,” said Mary Wahl, chairwoman of the event.
Why so many now? Maybe because this year, more than 211,300 women and 1,300 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 39,800 women and 400 men will die from it.
The race was first held in Dallas 20 years ago with only 800 people. The idea came from Nancy Brinker, who set up the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to memorialize her sister, who was 36 when she died from breast cancer. Proceeds help pay for screening, treatment, research, education, and efforts to eradicate breast cancer as a life threatening disease.
There's growing awareness that men can get breast cancer. In fact, among tomorrow's race participants are a Toledo husband and wife who are both breast cancer survivors.
Additionally, earlier this year, former Sen. Edward Brooke, a Massachusetts Republican, revealed that he had breast cancer.
“Early detection is key to survival and greater quality of life,” Ms. Wahl said.
That's why women must conduct breast self-exams, and have annual mammograms and doctors' exams.
Although there don't seem to be guidelines on self exams for men, increasing awareness could lead to the development of guidelines and prompt men's physicians to check for cancer in the breast as readily as they do their patients' prostate.
So tomorrow, everyone will understand why my friend Linda Reese is not in church. It's vital that she's in the race, something she understood prior to her own diagnosis.
There must be a cure to lessen the toll breast cancer takes on women and men's lives and their families.
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