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Monday, October 12, 2009

Breast Cancer

A cure is something everyone is looking for; it could be for something as simple as a cold to something as complex as an unknown disease. For my step family and I it is the latter. Every year, we get together with thousands of other hopefuls and walk. Every person is with us for a different reason whether they are surviving, celebrating, or survivors. We laugh and cry with people of every background imaginable, but we all share one thing in common: every person involved has been touched in some way or another by breast cancer. For my family and I our movement started in December of 1996 when we lost my Aunt Sara to her battle with cancer. Our first year of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was difficult. We went with our generic race shirts and "In memory of Sara Filar" pinned on our backs. In the beginning it was hard to see survivors dressed in pink throughout the crowd when our own fighter wasn't able to join them, but it has become easier throughout the years. Now when we walk we celebrate my aunt's memory as Team Sarah. Our shirts have her photo ironed onto the sleeve, we have a gigantic sign that announces our place in the crowds of participants, and we hug the survivors that we used to envy. It is a beautiful thing to see, coming over a large hill in the last stretch of the race, hundreds and hundreds of people joining together for the same cause: to find a cure.

Nancy G. Brinker founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure after losing her sister to breast cancer after a very ambitious battle. Susan spent her time in treatment looking for ways to make breast cancer easier for other women. Near the end of Susan's life, inspired by her sister's compassion and strength, Nancy promised Susan "that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever". This promise has lead to over one billion dollars since 1982, making the Susan G. Komen foundation the largest source of nonprofit funds for a breast cancer cure. Though they are making a huge impact on developments, nearly 10 million women could die from breast cancer in the next 25 years without a solution. Nancy's promise was to end breast cancer forever, the science is possible, and it is just a matter of time. 

Breast cancer is not something that is fully understood, and as of now there is no easy treatment. All women are susceptible and majority of the women that are diagnosed have no risk factors except for the obvious factor that they are aging females. It is very rare, but according to the Susan G. Komen foundation, in 2008 it was estimated that men would account for about 1,990 of the diagnosed. 

There are two specific types, Invasive and Non-Invasive (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ). Invasive breast cancer takes place when the abnormal cells in the ducts spread outside to the breast tissue. This allows the invasive cells to spread into the lymph system in a process called metastasis. Advanced stages can lead to cancer cells spreading to organs such as the liver, lungs and bones. 

Non-invasive breast cancer occurs when the abnormal cells remain in the milk ducts and do not spread to the breast tissue. It is possible for DCIS to develop into invasive cancer. This is why it is extremely important for women to take part in yearly mammograms and self checks; as with every disease early detection can be one of the most important factors in recovery. Before the 1980's new cases of breast cancer only rose by about one percent a year, likely because of a lack of awareness and less screening. It is shocking to hear that since the eighties the number of diagnosed cases has risen to 192,370 in 2009, but the mortality rate in the last 30 years has decreased significantly. This means that women are getting the necessary exams and breast cancer is being caught in the earlier stages making treatment more successful.  

The Race for the Cure is held annually all across the nation and in recent years they have extended to international affiliates, holding races in countries such as Costa Rica and Italy. In 2009 roughly 45,000 people participated globally, reaching $4.3 million dollars. The Twin Cities Race for the Cure is held every Mother's day in Bloomington. The festivities kick off in front of the Mall of America with stands that are spread across a parking lot, all of which are representatives of the many corporate sponsors. Amazingly enough, each year another sponsor is added, more gifts are given out, and more space is needed to accommodate all of the affiliates. Boxes of food and water are emptied in seconds. Bananas, yogurt, and Nutri-Grain bars are stuffed into fanny packs and empty strollers as participants head to the starting marker. At 9:00 A.M. the 5K walk starts and together, survivors in pink and loved ones in white, we traipse 3.1 miles proudly declaring our support. Sue's Sidekicks, Love for Lori, Team Healthy Hoots, Cure Cutie's, Nancy's Blazer's, Pirates of Pink, Renee's Renegades, and more, all making a difference for the next woman diagnosed with breast cancer. 

The best defense against any disease is to be well-informed. Information on Susan G. Komen for a Cure can be found online at komen.org or komenminnesota.org. There are so many ways to support. Donate to the foundation, Buy a bag of Amy's Blend coffee beans from Caribou, collect designated Yoplait yogurt lids, and even better, join thousands of others in the 2010 Twin Cities Race for the Cure. 

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