On Saturday, March 21st, however, thousands of people were gathering in Lafayette’s Parc Sans Souci and were already hard at work long before the clocks marked six a.m.
I was one of those people, volunteering for Acadiana’s tenth annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
Twenty-five years ago Susan Komen was battling breast cancer. Susan spent her time thinking of ways to educate, inspire, and benefit other women who were also struggling with the same illness.
Before the dreadful disease took her life, Susan’s sister Nancy G. Brinker promised that she would do everything possible to help end breast cancer.
That promise spurred the largest breast cancer movement and has since raised nearly one billion dollars.
In 1999, Acadiana became an affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Since its inception, Acadiana has helped to raise over one million dollars for breast cancer research and that is not including the proceeds from this month’s race.
As a volunteer, I went where I was needed. After being turned away from the Coca-Cola booth due to a surplus in workers, I heard a cry for help from the Breast Center of Acadiana. Underneath, and surrounding, their tent were what seemed to be an endless supply of cardboard boxes. Inside the boxes were four thousand hot-pink water bottles that would be freely dispersed to the walkers. The problem? Each bottle came in four pieces! The race would start in less than four hours, with most participants showing up for registration in just over an hour, and thousands of bottles needed to be assembled. I rolled up my sleeves, so to speak, and went to work alongside men and women I had never met.
What I found was amazing. Standing right next to me, assembling lids, was radiologist and owner Dr. Gary Matthews. He and his crew were friendly and most of all determined to use this event to get out an important message: one of early detection and prevention.
As the morning rolled on, one of the booth’s coordinators approached myself and some of the other volunteers and asked if we would wear a Breast Center of Acadiana T-shirts and help make a pathway for the Survivors to walk through.
As I watched the cancer survivors, they lined up in arranged order of how long they have endured this frightful malady. The real stars of the event became evident.
The real celebrities were not the racers, nor the volunteers behind the scenes, and they weren’t even the countless organizations who came together to make this event possible.
The real stars were the survivors themselves.
As these women made their way through the pathway to the stage, my mind was boggled by the astounding number of women from Acadiana who had battled and survived breast cancer.
Young, old, and middle aged – all walks of life were represented showing that this horrible affliction does not discriminate for any factor.
The last group of women to walk were the ones who have survived for more than twenty-five years after initially being diagnosed with cancer.
The group was only comprised of four women, but they carried such hope in their eyes. They had made it this far it, and that fact spread a wave of hope through the crowds ensuring that others would surely follow.
Amongst the crowd I saw numerous creative t-shirts. One group called themselves the “Ta-Ta’s”, another group of shirts proclaimed, “Help Save Second Base”, and a third read, “Breast Friends Forever.”
Even though the crowds were erupting with laughter, a serious undertone enclosed the entire event.
Breast cancer is real, and it has been stealing women in our community and all around the world.
Overall, more than nine thousand participants signed up for the race. Their entry fees will go on to fund further research for breast cancer cure.
Out of those proceeds, seventy-five percent will remain right here in Acadiana.
All of the organizations who set up a booth were there to hand out free stuff ranging from t-shirts to pom-poms, informational packets to magnets, bandanas to cups, and of course water bottles.
Not to mention the food! Hot dogs, hamburgers, fresh fruit and drinks were served free of charge.
Students from a local vocational college were also on hand to give free massages.
At the end of my shift, I walked around Parc Sans Souci and soaked in the surrounding festivities. A group of people stood stretching, getting ready for the race. On each t-shirt was the same photo of a woman with the words “In Loving Memory” printed underneath.
Another woman sat nearby, her hair loss hidden by a pink cap. She was sitting in a wheelchair which was being pushed by a woman who proudly wore a shirt which read, “I am a Survivor.” The display of support was overwhelming.
A woman approached me from behind. She was a volunteer dressed in green holding a sign. “I am the Cure,” she said, “Have you examined your breasts lately?”
More information about Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Breast Center of Acadiana can be found at the following websites: www.komenacadiana.org and www.breastcenterofacadiana.com