Survivor. One is a survivor the day of diagnosis. It is one word with so much meaning. When one thinks of this word others come to mind: Strong. Resilient. Fighter. Honest. Unwilling to give up. Positive. Mental toughness. Hope. The American Cancer Society Making Strides against Breast Cancer event is all about awareness and fundraising to provide support services as well as fund important research to find the cure to put an end to breast cancer.
The Concord Making Strides event is a celebration of survivorship – teams coming together to meet before they set out for the walk, uniting for the cause.
We have a special place for survivors, their caregivers and family to come called Survivor Place – survivors are offered a “survivor sash” to wear. Survivor Place is a calming, quiet environment; a place to sit down comfortably, relax and have a snack and drink. It is a place to have a conversation with those who are going through or have been through the journey or to simply get a hug on this emotional day. Special, caring cancer resource volunteers are available to help assist with the American Cancer Society programs and resources that are available. I encourage you to not only invite survivors that you know, but also caregivers, to visit us at Survivor Place.
We encourage you to visit a special memorial area, the permanent garden which is dedicated to all touched by breast cancer, called the Garden of Hope; it is a place for reflection in which you can tie a ribbon in honor of or in memory of a loved one.
At 12:30, survivors are invited to gather at the information tent. At the end of the opening ceremonies, the survivors walk, united as one, toward the stage while being given support by the teams and their loved ones. A team photo is taken on the stage, which will be sent out to each survivor as a memory of the day.
To me, this is proof of “why we do this,” the most meaningful part of the day. Seeing all of the survivors, walking together, united, is a feeling that is indescribable. Age does not matter – I have seen a survivor in their 70s who went through their diagnosis and treatment years ago walking beside someone in their 30s newly diagnosed. I truly think that it provides hope and is an inspiration for not only survivors, but also family, friends and caregivers cheering them on. I would ask that as team leaders you encourage those on your team to be sure to stay for this important part of the day before setting out on their walk.
For survivors who would like to participate in the walk, there are courtesy buses available on the route to assist if necessary. There is also a shorter, 2.5-mile route called Survivor Way. All are welcome at Making Strides Against Breast Cancer to experience the day in whatever way is meaningful to them.