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Walk this way: Annual walk brings together survivors and supporters alike to raise hope, money for breast cancer cure
Bobbie Jean Davis-Jackson, 58, is a two-time breast cancer survivor.
Davis-Jackson, a 1981 alumnus, was diagnosed in 1996 and 1999, and has been a survivor for 16 years. Davis-Jackson joined the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk 13 years ago.
What has kept her coming back to the walk all these years? Giving back to others who have had the same experience she did.
“I’m alive, plain and simple, and I want to be encouragement to anybody who is diagnosed,” Davis-Jackson said at the annual walk on Sunday morning.
The walk from Clinton Square around Downtown Syracuse drew a crowd of 5,600 individuals, despite heavy rain. From the event, the American Cancer Society raised $340,000. The event on the last day of September served as a precursor to October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Davis-Jackson’s husband and her friend helped her cope with her cancer. She had been dating her husband for only three months when she was diagnosed for the first time. Her friend brought her a bouquet of flowers because Davis-Jackson said she “needed sunshine in my life.”
“I just wanted to say that some people are afraid to let people know that they have breast cancer,” Davis-Jackson said. “The best thing you can do is tell your family and friends so you can have a support system. You’d be surprised how much that support can help you.”
Amy Delia, spokeswoman for the local American Cancer Society, has been participating in the walk for eight years. The huge turnout, despite the weather, she said, was indicative of how passionate people are about the cause.
Gina Taylor, a first-year law student, came to the walk as part of the National Women’s Law Student Association.
But the walk hit much closer to home for her. Taylor comes from a family in which multiple women — her two grandmothers and several great aunts — all suffered from breast cancer.
“It’s really emotional,” Taylor said. “I have a lot of women in my family who suffered from breast cancer.”
She participated in Sunday’s walk on behalf of her cousin, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32, went into remission 13 years ago and was diagnosed again a year ago. Her cousin currently has metastatic breast cancer, which means the cancer spread to other body parts.
Taylor said her cousin might not make it to the end of the year, and she wanted to run in her honor.
According to ACS’ official website, one in two women who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer turn to ACS for support. The organization has helped over 4 million women get screening tests. There are currently more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. The Making Strides program brings together more than 270 communities to raise money for breast cancer.
Donna Parks, education coordinator for Crouse Hospital, said that it was Quintin “Chip” Lockwood, her neighbor’s husband, who ended up bringing the walk to Syracuse.
A walk that Bethany Surman, 31, attended for the first time this year. Surman, a board member for the Liverpool Community Chorus, is about two months away from remission.
“My diagnosis made me decide to come,” Surman said.
The walk was also a chance for individuals to come out in support of their loved ones who have breast cancer or went into remission. Lenny Newton, 32, also a first-time walker, came to support his cousin and aunt, who both suffered from breast cancer. He said the walk went beyond his expectations.
“It exceeded them, truthfully, to see more people show up than the numbers they had,” Newton said. “They keep growing and growing.”
Susan Mone, along with Surman, attended the walk as part of the Liverpool Community Chorus.
“Just being with friends and surrounded with all this energy, it’s hopeful,” Mone said. “It’s people at their best, isn’t it?”
Others simply came out to support the cause.
Bob and Ann Avery, husband and wife, are realtors from Coldwell Banker. The residential real estate organization donates five dollars to the American Cancer Society for every individual that attends a Coldwell Banker open house.
“We’ve had walkers in the past, and this year we decided to join them,” Bob Avery said.
His wife said the walk emphasized the importance of preparedness.
“They’re getting the message out for early testing, and I think it has a huge impact,” Pam Avery said.
Jessica Ottinger, a junior at the State University of New York at Cortland and vice president of programming for Delta Phi Epsilon, came to the walk with her sorority sisters. She said this was the biggest walk they attended and that the girls were moved by the cause.
“It was really nice,” Ottinger said. “I liked to see a lot of people wearing the same color and it was moving. I think it really hit home for a lot of the girls.”
Ultimately, what draws people to the walk is not just the cause, but also the nature of the walk itself — its capacity to attract anyone.
Said Delia: “It’s not a race. You don’t have to be a certain age. We have a lot of community groups, coworkers and individuals.”
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