Race is on to save lives at Komen 5K

Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – At the Washington Monument Saturday morning, the race was on to save lives at the 23rd annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Nancy Brinker, Susan G. Komen for the Cure founder, spoke before the race started, reaffirming her organization’s commitment to breast cancer awareness.

“We believe that where you live should not determine whether you live,” she said.

Brinker went on to add that more needs to be done to help women in the capital region, which has one of the highest breast cancer death rates in the country. Because of that, 75 percent of the funds raised from the event is staying in the area.

The money will go toward treatment programs and screenings, as well as financial and social support for women fighting the disease.

The 5K, which is about 3.1 miles, kicked off with an expected 27,000 runners and walkers.

Bonnie Rogers, from Arlington, is a 10-year breast cancer survivor. She and her 2- year-old granddaughter cheered on the runners, including the Rogers’ daughter.

“I finally got off all my medicine in March, and … the doubt is always there,” she said. “Now I’m off the medicine. Does that mean it will it come back?”

Rogers said these fundraising events are incredibly important not just for the cancer patient, but for the future of people like her granddaughter.

Shawn Gardner, from Georgetown, was honored with this year’s co-survivor award for the work he’s done in memory of his 26-year -old sister, Heather. She was diagnosed at the age of 25 and died one year later.

“It was a kick in the gut,” he said. “They say she could have had her tumor up to 10-years.”

He formed Team Heather 11 years ago while his sister was still alive, and has since raised more than $400,000.

Ten years after his sister’s death, Gardner said the pain still lingers.

“I am doing (the race) for the woman that’s next to me and for the woman who doesn’t know, but will find out tomorrow (that she has breast cancer),” he said.

Joy Strickler, from Darnestown, Md. is a nine-year survivor who celebrates each day. She said it’s great to see all the support, especially in light of the controversy earlier this year when Komen pulled its funding from Planned Parenthood. A national outcry prompted the funding to be reinstated.

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