Olivia Bonevento is a featured guest blogger for Komen CSNJ. She lives at the Jersey Shore and is currently a student at a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. Read more about Olivia on her personal blog – oliviabonevento.wordpress.com.
Susan G. Komen’s Race For The Cure, is “the world’s largest and most successful education and fundraising event for breast cancer ever created.” It is a series of multiple 5k runs and fitness walks all over the world that are meant to raise funds and awareness for the breast cancer movement. It also celebrates breast cancer survivorship and honors those who have lost their battle with the disease. The Race for the Cure started in 1983, with one race that had 800 people in Dallas, and it has grown to a global series of more than 150 races with nearly 1 million people participating on four continents.
These races make an impact. In the United States, Susan G. Komen events are organized by local people who are affiliated with Komen. As a result, the event contributes 75 percent of the net income of each race to the local community to fund local programs offering breast health education and breast cancer screening/treatment. The remaining 25 percent goes to national research. Regardless of how much is raised, money is going to the places that need it the most.
Events like Race For The Cure have helped Komen invest over $2 billion dollars to fulfill our promise of playing a role in virtually every major advance in breast cancer. The Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure also has left a footprint on the world, with a notable international impact.
The Komen CSNJ Race For The Cure took place on November 6, 2016 at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ. There was a tremendous turnout, and I was blessed to be able to attend and to have an opportunity to interview multiple survivors. It was an extremely eye-opening and humbling experience for me- filled with an array of emotions. These women have displayed such strength and resilience in the face of adversity and it was an honor to stand with them and watch as they shared their journey with others. Of course, I could not get to everyone at the event, and if I could, I absolutely would have. Yet, here are some highlights from my day of interviewing- I hope you join me in praying for these remarkable women and their continued health, happiness, and success.
I asked three main questions to my interviewees:
- How long have you been free of/experienced breast cancer?
- What kept you going in your hardest moments?
- If you could give a piece of advice to someone struggling with Breast Cancer right now, what would you tell them?
I also asked the interviewees for a picture- all of them graciously accepted, and took a picture either with their team, their family members, or individually.
I was taken aback by the honesty, strength, and love that these women showed to me, even when they were talking about what was probably some of their hardest life experiences.
These are just some of the strong, phenomenal survivors that I had the honor of meeting at the Race for the Cure. It was truly an honor to speak to such amazing women.
Lola was perhaps one of the most special ladies I met on my interview quest- she was, as of November 6, 39 years Breast Cancer Free (what an inspiring feat). When she had breast cancer, no one talked about it. Her motivation to keep going at the time was her three small children. If she had a piece of advice for people suffering right now, it would be to TALK TALK TALK about it!
Beverly is now 4 years cancer free. Her team kept her going in her toughest moments, and her biggest piece of advice for those suffering is: Take it one day at a time.
Rachel is 2 years out of Breast Cancer! She says that her family kept her going in the toughest of times. Her advice to those suffering is to always have a positive attitude and to know that people love you.
Diane is 13 years cancer free. Her family kept her going when things got tough. Her biggest piece of advice for people suffering, or young women in general is get checked and self-examine. She found her own cancer.
Monique and Sharome have a sad but beautiful story that really highlights the true meaning of family. Monique and Sharome are sisters, and while Sharome is now 12 years cancer free, Monique unfortunately lost her battle. Sharome’s advice to people suffering now is to stay positive, always have faith, and believe that the Lord will heal you.
Michele is an extremely strong, athletic woman- in fact, she was one of the first survivors to finish the race! She is 2 years cancer free. More than anyone, her husband kept her going through the hard days of treatment. She is extremely grateful for him. Her biggest piece of advice for anyone suffering is to laugh to get through everything- if you are laughing, you aren’t crying.
Della is 6 years cancer free. Her excitement was infectious and she didn’t have a lot of time to talk. However, I was able to get a little insight. Her biggest piece of advice for anyone and everyone is to always live life with a laugh.
I felt an immediate connection with Shirley (I am pictured with her in the photo above). She is now 8 years breast cancer free. Her family kept her going in the toughest of times, she said that they were truly the biggest supporters she could have asked for. Her biggest advice is to follow your doctor’s orders.
Kathy is one year from her second remission, three years from her first. Her family, friends, and faith kept her going through her many rounds of treatment. Her biggest piece of advice to anyone suffering is to NOT give up ever, and lean on your family and friends.
Kristen is 4 years cancer free. She is an extremely strong woman, and an inspiration to me. When asked what kept her going, she simply said that she kept herself going. That is the only answer I got of that type all day. Her biggest piece of advice is to not waste your time worrying, and to live while you have the opportunity to.
Karen is 13 years breast cancer free. Her network of family and friends kept her going during treatment. Her biggest advice for anyone suffering is to use your support network- people want to help you, you just need to let them in.
Jamie is 11 years cancer free. Her daughter and her (above) are extremely close. Her family kept her going through the days of treatment. Her biggest piece of advice is to always stay positive and to keep your loved ones near.
Maureen is 6 years cancer free. Her husband keeps her going the most, along with her extensive support network. Her biggest piece of advice is to stay strong and lean on who wants to support you.
Karen is going to be cancer free for one year in July. Her four children (3 daughters, 1 son) kept her going when times got tough and treatments were overwhelming. She also kept on working. Her biggest piece of advice for people who are suffering is to look for support, it’s very important, especially coming from your “survivor sisters”.
Melissa has been cancer free for one year. Her family and friends have kept her going- she has a great support system. Her advice is to stay positive- it makes all the difference.
Eileen is 19 years cancer free- her biggest piece of advice? Do everything you have to do to get better.
Judy is 11 years cancer free. Her family kept her going- they are always there to provide some comic relief and comfort. Her biggest piece of advice is to stay strong- every bit of support counts… it’s a hard fight, but when you are strong you can do anything.
Sue and Mary are cousins. Sue has experienced breast cancer two times- her first time, she was cancer free for 4 years. She is now in her second remission, and has been for a total of six months. Mary has been cancer free for 14 years. Their biggest piece of advice for anyone suffering is to talk to people who have gone through it, and to come walk with us.
Delilah is the true definition of resilience and fight. At the moment, she is going through her second bout of breast cancer. She has cancer in not only her breasts, but also her lymph nodes and hips. She has had 10 surgeries, 8 rounds of chemo, and over 40 radiation treatments. She was in remission when her cancer was found again. Her son, who is 8 years old, keeps her going through her extensive struggle- he is her light at the end of the tunnel. If Delilah could give someone suffering advice, it would be that you need to take your time and talk to multiple doctors and don’t rush to make a decision.