• Cancer Patient Stories

    Pink Memories

Whitney Len, Public Affairs intern at Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida, shares her perspective on the breast cancer marathon.

The highlight of my weekend? Crossing finish line of the 26.2 with Donna – The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer with a breast cancer survivor.

Whitney Len & Dr. Edith Perez
Whitney Len (left) and Dr. Edith Perez at the 26.2 with Donna

As I awoke at 5:45 a.m. on Sunday, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. All I knew was that I wanted to hit the snooze button two more times. As a college student, I wanted to catch up on my sleep, but I had agreed to volunteer for the event. When I arrived on the Mayo Clinic campus in Florida, where the race began, I knew sleep would not be missed.

Emotions were high and pink was everywhere. More than 7,500 runners and walkers decked out not only in traditional race gear but also feathers, tu-tus and pink wigs headed for the starting line. I was surprised by the diversity of participants. In addition to local news anchor Donna Deegan, who founded the marathon, and Edith Perez, M.D., who heads Mayo Clinic’s Breast Center in Florida,  former Olympian Joan Benoit Samuelson, a medalist from the 1984 games, was there, as well as everyday folks like me – children with their fathers, grandmothers with their grandchildren, mothers and daughters – young and old.

I saw an acquaintance who I did not realize was a survivor. I decided to join her as she walked, and she shared her story with me as we did.

I had to hold back the tears as I listened to her and passed the various “In memory of” signs on the backs of the participants. I thought of a good friend who was a breast cancer survivor but who ultimately succumbed to another cancer a few years ago. I suddenly realized I was not alone in my memories – or in my hope to find a cure.  All the people surrounding me were connected together by the same thoughts.

For me, crossing the finish line next to a survivor was enlightening. The feeling of hope and the joy that shone on her face as she crossed was contagious. I left the event believing that a cure will soon be found. How can it not be? With the dedication of researchers and physicians at Mayo Clinic and the passion of the survivors and participants, it’s bound to happen.

See pictures of the marathon on Mayo Clinic's Flickr photostream.

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