Survivors and friends gear up for breast cancer walk

Bronxites are ready to make strides against breast cancer.

This year, the annual Making Strides Walk will take place at Orchard Beach on Sunday, October 17.

In preparation of that day, hundreds of survivors, friends, and fundraisers that support the cause came out to Marina del Rey on Wednesday morning, August 18 for the American Cancer Society’s kickoff breakfast.

About a third of the women present wore large white sashes that read: SURVIVOR.

“As I walk, I will tell everone about all the amazing people I had breakfast with,” announced Dr. Leslie Montgomery, a breast surgeon at Montefiore Medical Center. Montgomery was just one of many on a diverse panel that included doctors and coroporate representatives who told their own tales of experience with cancer.

Perhaps the nicest element of the breakfast, many noted, was that even the corporate representatives got personal and told their own tales, rather than just advertising the company’s role in the walk.

Robert Damato, for one, spoke on behalf of ConEdison, but then talked about a dear friend of his who lost her battle to breast cancer. “Getting that one extra person to walk on your team is huge,” Damato stressed, “because every dollar makes a difference.”

Dr. Bert Petersen, of St. Barnabas Hospital, told a delighted crowd about how, in 1997, he singlehandedly organized the first Making Strides walk on the island of St. Thomas, where he is from originally. “If you’ve ever been there, you know what it’s like. We had that calypso music, it was really awesome.” There were ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s.

But Petersen also used his slot to relate a story about a patient he once met who felt that her breast cancer was a punishment for her sins, and that she should not let herself get treated. Another woman was about to lose her breasts and feared she could no longer be intimate with her husband.

“These are the things we deal with every day,” Petersen said, “And we tell people that getting checked is so, so important, and only then can you be treated in time.”

Hannah Nelson, from Jacobi Hospital, agreed and told the crowd, “You’d never believe how many women actually think that this is God’s will, for them to have breast cancer, so they don’t do anything about it. They don’t get checked.”

In addition to stressing the importance of regular mammograms, the speakers discussed team building, recruiting walkers, and being a pacesetter, which means individually raising $1,500 for the walk.

The host and M.C. for the morning was Diana Williams from ABC television, who completed the speeches by saying, “I love the commitment! I love the fact that year after year, rain or shine, you are all there.”

Bernice Williams-Johnson, a survivor herself and also treasurer of the 46th Precinct community council, was especially excited for the walk in October. “Everyone is so ready, I mean, look around the room,” she said. Her team will be called the Go-Girls. “I like to hang out by the survivor’s tent, before the walk, because then I can meet so many special people.”

Before filing out after breakfast and speeches, Yilda Guerrero, director of events for ACS, had the entire room join in a chant.

“I got magic, in me! I got magic, in me!”

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