Taking steps against breast cancer 0
The skies may have been grey but Pembroke's Riverside Park was dotted with shades of pink Saturday as cancer survivors came together to celebrate their victory over this dreaded disease.
This year's Taking Steps Against Breast Cancer, hosted by the Renfrew County Unit of the Canadian Cancer Society, launched "Pink Month" while raising $4,700 for cancer research and support services.
Wearing pink hats, t-shirts and feather boas, more than 25 walkers gathered outside the Kiwanis Field House at Riverside Park to travel over either a three-kilometre or 10-kilometre route. A line of walkers set out across the park before turning towards Pembroke Street West. Those who were tackling the full 10 kilometres turned around at Rosewood Avenue in the east end of town.
Before stepping off, the supporters and volunteers of the Canadian Cancer Society gathered together to remember those who have lost their battle and encourage those still fighting. Prior to that, a quick warm-up was conducted by members of the Upper Ottawa Valley Tai Chi Club.
"Your participation is such a big part of our journey in recognizing breast cancer awareness," said event chairwoman Jodie Boxall, who made special mention of the volunteers who staged the walk. "I want to thank each and every one of you for your time and dedication."
This year's honorary survivor, Kathy Wyatt, of Petawawa, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, spoke of her gratitude for family, friends, doctors and the Cancer Society. She explained that it was a routine mammogram that picked up a cancerous lump the size of a thumbnail in her breast. After undergoing sessions of chemotherapy, she was declared clear of cancer in August, 2011.
"I am very fortunate," said Ms. Wyatt, decked out in pink like so many others this day. "I live each day as if it could be my last. I get up in the morning and watch the sunrises and the sunsets. My husband, Barry, and I spent more time together than we ever did because it can be gone in a minute."
The certified pharmacy technician was initially reluctant to undergo treatments because she knew about the side effects from the drugs. Once she was cleared, she also felt a tremendous amount of survivor's guilt. She began asking herself why she lived and some of her friends or acquaintances passed away from cancer.
"I kept saying me, why me?" she asked. "But everybody is telling I have something to give back."
Ms. Wyatt's advice for anyone who is suddenly diagnosed and will undergo treatment is to seek out assistance from the Canadian Cancer Society. The organization offers a wide array of services from transportation for medical appointments to providing wigs during chemotherapy. As a volunteer prior to her diagnosis, she added she had no idea what the society could do until she found herself in that terrible situation.
While the Taking Steps event is not as widely participated as the Relay for Life, its mission is no less vital -raising money for breast cancer research. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).
This year, the Canadian Cancer Society estimates that 22,700 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,100 will die of it. An estimated 200 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 55 will die of it. On average, 62 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every day. On average, 14 Canadian women will die of breast cancer every day.
A second walk will be held in Eganville this coming Saturday, Oct. 6, beginning at Fairfields on Bell Street at 11 p.m. Registration for the Eganville walk can be done online at www.takingsteps.ca.For more information, people can also call the Canadian Cancer Society office at 613- 735-2571.
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist