Wednesday, September 28

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Last year I participated in a 3-Day Breast Cancer walk. It was the experience of a lifetime. I hope to walk in another one next year. If you can't walk, then sponsor someone who can and who is walking for the cure, volunteer to work be part of the crew, or just go and cheer the walkers on their way. It does make a difference.

Memories of a Lifetime: The 3-Day Walk had the following on their website today:

Camping Out for Cancer

When you have 2,000 people from all over the country trekking 60 miles in honor of loved ones who have battled cancer, the organizing of the walk does not seem like much of a story. But if you are one of the weary walkers, it means everything.

There was plenty of good food, plenty of water, plenty of informed, enthusiastic, tireless volunteer staffers telling you what to do and where to go and helping you do it and get there. Hot showers were provided in giant tractor trailers. The portable bathrooms were about as clean as portable bathrooms can be expected to be. Even the pup tents were erected in precise, neat rows.

Despite the grueling physical challenge of walking the 3-Day, participating was a lot like being part of a traveling carnival or parade. The music, dancing and food are just part of it. At pit stops every three miles along the route, music blasted from giant speakers and food and drinks were dispensed from beneath giant tents while walkers stretched out on the grass to eat and socialize.

Crowds large and small, some people wearing costumes, would gather at points along the route to cheer on the walkers. There was so much food along the route, I was sure that I was actually gaining weight as I walked.

But what really captured the spirit of celebration were the Mardi Gras-inspired costumes: Wigs, lace, ribbons, sequins, homemade hats, beads, wings, wreaths of flowers, bras put to amazingly creative use — all pink.

At first it seemed appropriate that an event staged to fight death would be one infused with such life. But then I realized that the costumes — the shocking shades of pink, the lacy, Barbie Doll-exaggerated girliness of the motifs — were caricatures of femininity, mocking a disease that attacks a part of the body uniquely invested with female identity and mythology.

The final miles of the walk took us from the funky Mannayunk section of Philadelphia into the vast and winding Fairmount Park. As we entered the last half mile or so, a man wearing a giant Uncle Sam hat appeared on the route. He was holding a sign that read "Please Come Home Now. We're Starving."

The women on the route went crazy for his sign and rushed up to him, posing for pictures. Not far ahead, many of their husbands and kids were waiting to take them home. As we crossed the finish line, the cheers were deafening. Before they could even sit down, many of the women were hoisting babies and toddlers onto their hips. The husbands wore expressions of unmitigated relief.

Maybe, like Uncle Sam's family, they'd also starved over the weekend.

But that was the whole point of the Breast Cancer 3-Day. According to the Komen Foundation, in 2005, 40,410 women won't be coming home.

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