03 May 2006

Avon Walk for Breast Cancer

I participated in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer as a Crew member on the Security Team last weekend. (Pictures are forthcoming.) It was an incredible event. I learned so much, and was so impressed by the event and its participants. I learned things like the following:
  • One out of every 7 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • Only 5-10% of all breast cancers are hereditary.
  • Approximately 211,240 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, including 1690 men.
  • 40,410 women and 460 men will die of breast cancer this year.
  • People over the age of 50 account for 77% of those diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Every 3 minutes, someone is diagnosed with breast cancer (see below).
  • Every 14 minutes, someone dies of breast cancer.
  • White, non-Hispanic women are more likely to develop breast cancer, but African-American women are more likely to die of it.
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Hispanic women, and it is the leading cause of cancer deaths in this group.
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer among African-American women.
  • Men account for about 1% of breast cancer cases.

See what I mean?? This is a beast of a disease. The event itself wasn't what I would call "fun", because of the sheer intensity of the emotion involved. One man, "mohawk guy" as he was called, walked the event wearing a t-shirt that stated he was walking with, for, and in honor of his wife. She had chemotherapy on Thursday, and still walked the first half of Saturday. If you aren't aware, the walk is a total of 39.3 miles. 26.2, a full marathon, on Saturday, and 13.1, a half marathon, on Sunday. It is an overnight event, and the Walkers, Crew Members, and Staff stay in a tent village. THAT MEANS that a woman whose immune system and strength had just been cut down by chemotherapy 2 days earlier, walked 13 miles on Saturday. When he got to the finish line, she was waiting for him with buckets of roses that they handed out to the medical staff who had helped her and the survivors who were participating. Incredible.

As I said above, every 3 minutes someone is diagnosed with breast cancer. For the walk, from the opening ceremony to the closing ceremony, every three minutes, one of the walkers is given a pink Miss-America-style ribbon to wear. At the end of the event, there is a number of walkers wearing ribbons equal to the number of people who would have been diagnosed with breast cancer in that amount of time. As a member of the security team (the only team that's on duty the entire walk-- I never got more than about 20 minutes of unbroken sleep), I was given the task of distributing some of these ribbons. Everyone else was asleep, and around 2:30 Saturday morning, I began my trek around the Wellness Village with a bag of 150 pink ribbons. I was the angel of death... or at least the angel of diagnosis. I stopped women going back to their tents from the bathrooms, sneaking over to get a warm drink (temperatures dipped below 40 that night), and I left ribbons on the ground, in shoes, and on bags outside tents for the occupants to discover when they awoke. I have to say it was a bit morbid. When you're the only one awake, patrolling with a flashlight, and handing out breast cancer diagnoses in 40-degree weather, you have time to think. I wondered about the men and women who would find these ribbons in the morning. I wondered if this person is one of the incredible people who are currently fighting this disease and taking this time to be a part of this event. I wondered if these shoes carried someone whose heart had been broken by a death in her family brought to her doorstep by this illness. I wondered if they would see it as a token to represent where they had spent the weekend, or if they'd see it as being hit again, randomly, by a killer. It was quite a sobering thought.

Even if I'd never known anyone touched by breast cancer, and even if it wasn't a concern of mine, I would still have been impressed by this event. I have to say, I have participated in a lot of events, volunteered in a lot of organizations, learned about a lot of charitable organizations and events, but I was amazed by the sheer logistics of this event. There were about 3000 participants. There were more than a hundred rental vehicles. There was an entire village constructed of tents. There was a route that went through multiple municipalities including DC and several other towns/cities in Maryland. There were Walkers, Crew Members, Staff Members, and Volunteers. Within the Crew there were 29 different teams. Along the route, there were quick stops (toilets, water, and sport drinks only), rest stops (just like the quick stops only with snacks and medical care as well), and lunch stops (actual meal instead of just snacks). This is an EXTREMELY well-organized event, and I was literally amazed time after time throughout the weekend. It was really incredible.

Before the closing ceremony, I registered as a walker for next year's event. Additionally, I made the decision that I will Crew EVERY Avon Walk in one year sometime in the next 5 years. There are 8--DC, Boston, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Charlotte. Next year, I will walk 39.3 miles over two days for those women I know who have had or do have breast cancer. I will walk for their families, husbands, friends. But most of all, I will walk it for the women and men in my life who I hope will never be visited by this particular beast. I will walk it for me, as well, but most of all I will walk it for you.

Much love.


For information about the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, click here.


DCBrownie said...

I am in awe of you!

Anonymous said...

You have a way with words. I'm imagine God is pleased with your heart for people and with the way you're using your skilled pen to bless others.