A Celebration of Life
Guest post by Margaret Flowers, PhD., Komen Science Manager, Mission Dept: Grants and Programs Management.
I recently had the pleasure to speak at the 16th Annual Yuma County Pink Tea Celebration of Life in Yuma, AZ at the invitation of Sarah Lydick, Director of Women’s Health at the Regional Center for Border Health, Inc. (RCFBH). The RCFBH Breast Health Awareness Program has been supported by Komen Southern Arizona Affiliate community grants for over 12 years and hosts this event each October to honor breast cancer survivors and their families.
When I arrived, I was greeted by Sarah and RCFBH President & CEO, Amanda Aguirre, who gave me a brief orientation to the program of events. All around me, RCFBH staff and volunteers were busy putting the final touches on pink and white draped tables and chairs, while community sponsors and participants were assembling peripheral displays of education materials, donations for auction, and artists’ exhibits.
Before long, guests began arriving and the nervous energy that had consumed the space was replaced with an ambiance defined by splendid attention to detail and welcoming smiles. Breast cancer survivors, many elegantly accessorized in pink and displaying personal mementos and amulets, were accompanied by families and friends, community sponsors, and local officials. Old and new friends greeted each other with long, exuberant embraces that implied a shared journey that would bind them forever. Others posed for group photos, arms and shoulders locked in solidarity, in celebration of life and hopes for the future.
I spoke about Komen’s nearly $90 million investment in disparities in breast cancer outcomes research, including more than $21M in studies specifically addressing disparities in Latina/Hispanic populations. It was an excellent opportunity to convey our impact in an area of particular interest to this predominantly Hispanic community. The topic did, in fact, generate considerable interest and there were many excellent questions during and after my talk.
I’ve been a Race for the Cure® participant for several years and have always found it to be a moving and inspirational event. Those experiences, however, could not have prepared me for the emotional impact of the 16th Annual Yuma County Pink Tea.
Standing at the podium to present my talk, I looked out over many joyful faces gathered to take part in the day’s events. A wave of emotion swept over me, emanating from a deep gratitude for being part of this celebration of life, in remembering my mother’s battle with breast cancer and being overcome with a sense of her presence.
While my presentation was the keynote, it was the stories of the survivors and the memorials to those who lost their battles that truly made this a celebration of life. As I listened to women recount their journeys, I was humbled by their courage, hope and determination not to let breast cancer define their lives. The memorials to loved ones lost reminded me of my own mission to honor my mother’s experience by trying to make a difference in someone’s life every day.
I have always felt a special privilege for the knowledge I’ve gained in my job as a Komen science manager of the cutting edge science and the promise it holds. I had arrived to convey that hope to the room of breast cancer survivors and their loved ones. As I made my way home, across the moonlit Sonoran desert, I realized that I left with so much more. I left with the hope and anticipation of attending many more celebrations of life that are born out of the advances brought by breast cancer research that Susan G. Komen has so ardently supported.
Learn more about the work of the Regional Center for Border Health here http://www.rcfbh.org.
For more information on topics relating to breast cancer disparities, visit these sites: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/RacialEthnicIssuesinScreening.html
About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.