Pink is prevalent during the month of October, but don’t let its playful, flirtatious demeanor mislead you. The thousands of Mid-Southerners who will be wearing it this weekend are strong, resilient and determined. And they are waging a fierce battle against breast cancer.
Joni Janis Hester, senior marketing analyst for International Paper Foodservice Business, signs a Pink Heals fire truck in honor of her mother, breast cancer survivor Robin Janis. International Paper supports numerous activities to help raise breast cancer awareness.
(Photo Courtesy of Joni Janis Hester)
Since its inception in 1983, the Komen Race for the Cure has grown from one race with 800 participants in Dallas to more than 140 races with more than 1.6 million participants on five continents. In the Mid-South, the race is the region’s largest event to promote awareness and raise money for breast cancer research. This year, it has additional significance: Saturday marks the 20th Komen Memphis-MidSouth Race for the Cure.
“This affiliate was formed in 1992, and for that first race, our goal was to get 500 women to participate – back then, the race was only for women,” said Elaine Hare, executive director of the Memphis-MidSouth Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. “We ended up with 1,753 participants and raised enough money to give $30,000 in grants.”
Since then, the numbers steadily increased. Last year, more than 18,600 registrants raised $1.1 million. Although Hare had hopes of beating those numbers with at least 20,000 participants to coincide with the 20th race, she says at the moment they’re not on track for that.
“If people want to help us meet our goal, we need them to go online and register,” she said. “Sleep in for the Cure is great for people who can’t make the race.”
The deadline for online registration is Friday, Oct. 26, at komenmemphis.org. Registration for Sleep in for the Cure, designed for people who can’t make the race but would like to be a part of it, also is available on the online registration form.
Joni Janis Hester, 30, senior marketing analyst for International Paper Foodservice Business, is part of International Paper’s team, IPink, and one of the many registrants affected personally by breast cancer. Her mother Robin, 58, is a breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed at age 45. At the time, Hester was 18.
“I learned at a young age how important early detection is and how breast cancer doesn’t only affect the patients, it affects everyone around them,” she said. “Now I want to do what I can to help raise awareness and support others in treatment. I also want to celebrate the survivors and honor the memory of those we have lost.”
“Out of the more than 1 million women in the Mid-South, one in every eight of them will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.”
–Elaine Hare, Susan G. Komen for the Cure
Hester says she is fortunate to work for a company that actively supports the cause. As a presenting sponsor of Race for the Cure, International Paper donates a minimum of $40,000 a year to the Memphis-MidSouth Affiliate. The company also has launched a Pink Ribbon product line, including hot cups and lids, from which 20 percent of profits are donated to breast cancer research and awareness.
As with all of Komen Memphis-MidSouth’s efforts, money raised during Race for the Cure will support community breast health programs throughout the region. To date, the affiliate has invested $7.6 million in providing breast cancer screenings, education, support, research grants and treatment programs in Shelby, Fayette, DeSoto, Tipton and Tunica counties. This year, thanks in part to the funds raised during the 2011 race, the affiliate added 16 more counties across Tennessee and Mississippi to its service area.
Up to 75 percent of net proceeds generated by the affiliate stays in the Memphis-MidSouth area. Only 16 percent goes to cover the affiliate’s operations costs, Hare said. Any remaining money goes to the national Susan G. Komen for the Cure Grants Program to fund research.
“Out of the more than 1 million women in the Mid-South, one in every eight of them will develop breast cancer in her lifetime,” Hare said. “One in eight is too high a number.”
Hare says people also shouldn’t forget that breast cancer affects men: According to the National Cancer Institute, 2,190 men have been diagnosed with the disease this year, and 410 men already have died from it.
Memphis Police Officer Vance Stacks, 43, is a male breast cancer survivor. Late last year, he detected a lump in his chest. His doctor said it was nothing. Fortunately, he got a second opinion.
“When that doctor told me it was breast cancer, I said, ‘How can that be? Men don’t get breast cancer!’ That’s when I learned that the cells under the nipple can become cancerous.”
Stacks says he’s fortunate to have caught the disease in time. Although less than 1 percent of men are diagnosed with breast cancer, it is often more fatal for men due to late detection or misdiagnosis.
Now, Stacks – who will be running in this weekend’s Race for the Cure – spends his free time speaking to groups and seminar audiences about the disease. He’s not embarrassed to discuss it, he says, because he’s grateful for the opportunity to live a full life with his wife, children and grandchildren. He celebrates the day he learned he was in remission as a second birthday. And the advice he gives other men is the same advice Hare gives to women.
“Men need to check themselves for lumps regularly the same way women check themselves,” Stacks said. “Know your body. If you feel a lump, even if it doesn’t hurt, get it checked.”
The Memphis-MidSouth Komen Race for the Cure begins at 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at The Shops at Saddle Creek in Germantown. For more information, including a detailed race schedule and registration forms, visit komenmemphis.org/komen-race-for-the-cure.