Archive for Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wristen: Awareness of cancer bolstered by sports, run

August 11, 2011

It’s a strange feeling to be sitting in a hospital waiting room while typing this column.

A close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer three weeks ago. She’s having a power port installed right now, and by the time you read this she’ll be starting chemotherapy.

Chances are you know someone who knows the routine she’s beginning, or you’ve been through it yourself.

I never realized just how prevalent breast cancer is until my mom was diagnosed in May 2010. She’s healthy now, thank goodness, but in the 14 months since her diagnosis my eyes have been opened to the prevalence of the disease. According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, one woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every three minutes.

It’s even a risk for men, although much more rare. The American Cancer Society says 2,140 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among men this year — about one in 1,000 men — and about 450 likely will die from it.

Simply put, if you don’t know someone who has had breast cancer, then you definitely know someone who knows someone — that’s two degrees of separation at best.

It’s refreshing to know that people can openly discuss breast cancer now. It is, after all, the most prevalent cancer in the world according to the Komen Foundation. In fact, the conversation has grown so loud and research has been done so extensively that survival rates continue to improve.

The battle is far from over. Efforts to increase awareness have surged in recent years. Now it is common to see high school sports teams have “Pinkout” events to increase awareness and raise money. Last year the Basehor-Linwood High School football team joined a slew of other programs in the Kansas City metro area in having players wear pink armbands and other equipment on game night to draw attention to the disease.

It’s not necessary to be a gifted athlete to join the fight, however. One of the most successful cancer-fighting organizations — The Susan G. Komen Foundation — annually plays host to the Race for the Cure. The event has been wildly successful in Kansas City. Last year’s race — the 17th annual — drew a crowd of about 27,000. It was my first Race for the Cure, in honor of my mom, and it was humbling to see the turnout. Female breast cancer survivors had their own shirts to stand out, as did the male survivors. The number of survivor shirts was overwhelming. The number of current cancer patients in attendance was, too. Tribute T-shirts were everywhere.

It’s fair to say it took my mom’s diagnosis and then witnessing a city united for me to grasp the magnitude of the impact breast cancer has, and the even bigger army of people willing to stand up and fight it.

The 18th annual Race for the Cure takes place at 7:30 a.m. Sunday at Union Station in downtown Kansas City, Mo. I plan to be there, both in honor of my mom who is a survivor and for my friend who is just now starting her fight, as well as for my sister in hopes that she never has to go through it.

Registration information can be found at komenkansascity.org. I hope to see all of you there.

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