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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hope Begins With You

Today I had the privilege of walking in the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event in Albuquerque. Despite cold and very windy weather (42 degrees, 30 mph winds and a wind chill of 31), more than 12,000 walkers turned out.

I always get so inspired by participating in these events. This marked my fifth event for the ACS, but my first Making Strides walk. The walkers ranged from babies in strollers to senior citizens. They ran the gamut of races and ethnicities, from African Americans to whites, Hispanics and Asians. People walked solo, in family groups and on teams. There were thin walkers and overweight walkers, athletic walkers and those who struggled to complete the 5 miles. Most inspiring of all was seeing all the women wearing 'survivor' sashes. It's sad that so many people have been diagnosed with cancer, but encouraging to see so many survivors.

It also was encouraging to see so many young people. Many of those braving the below-freezing temperatures were teenagers. Some were walking, while others stood along the route to make sure the walkers stayed within the closed lanes of the roadways. Some handed out water along the route.

One group of men, all of them wearing pink T-shirts, danced and sang to entertain the walkers. I passed a boy, perhaps 7 or 8 years old, wearing an oversized T-shirt with the words "Real men wear pink" emblazoned on the back. A team of women wore shirts with the words "Fight like a girl" on them.

Despite a 'no dogs' dictum, there were a lot of dogs at the event. Rocco, a boxer, wore a pink shirt with a frilly ruffle around his neck. I saw a chihuahua wearing a quilted pink coat, a pair of pugs wearing pink jackets, and other dogs with pink ribbons.

So in spite of the weather, it was a great day. Yes it was cold and windy and nasty. But the minor discomfort the walkers put up with for a couple of hours was nothing compared with what people fighting cancer endure. I was cold, but that is nothing compared with the pain of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, and with the fear that must envelope those who hear the dreaded words, "You have cancer."

I am honored to have been able to take part in today's event, and I am humbled by those who donated a total of $500 to this cause in my name. Most touching of all was the $5 cash donation from my daughter. The newspaper the day after the walk said we raised $510,000!

I thought this might be my last ACS walk, but who knows? "Hope begins with you" were the words on a sign along the walk route. And it's true. Hope begins with each person who walks, with each person who donates, with each advance in detecting and treating this awful disease. So maybe a year from now, I'll be hitting the road once again. 

My part is easy. The real heroes are those who are fighting cancer.