‘Cry together, laugh together’ | AspenTimes.com

‘Cry together, laugh together’

Steve Benson

It was somewhat shocking, but also comforting, to see how many women have fought breast cancer and survived. On Saturday, Rio Grande Park was swirling with supporters and survivors as about 1,600 people participated in the 14th annual Susan G. Komen Aspen Race for the Cure, including over 50 breast cancer survivors.My mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. As her son I’m naturally doing all I can to support her, but I cannot fully relate to all that she is going through. The only people who can are women who, like her, are mounting the fight of their lives to beat the disease – and those who’ve already won.Following the 5K run and walk, which started and finished at Rio Grande Park, survivors spoke about their experiences and the importance of the Race for the Cure.”It’s a very special day, and there are a lot of very special people,” said survivor Judy Kess of No Name. “It gives you a really wonderful feeling to be a part of it, to raise money and awareness.”Carbondale’s Joan Rauwerdink, who has overcome two bouts with breast cancer, said the event is always inspiring.”The support is wonderful, the ceremony is so emotional every year,” Rauwerdink said. “It’s such a good feeling to be sitting up there with other survivors.”About 215,990 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer this year, and over 40,000 women will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. There are currently more than two million women living in the U.S. who have been treated for breast cancer. Beating the disease often means enduring chemotherapy, which for most women, including my mom, is a hellish, incomprehensible experience and the toughest part of the battle. n see Cure on page A17– continued from page A14The fight is severe, long and sometimes lonely. As Rauwerdink put it, “You can’t describe it unless you’ve been there, done that.”As a result, a special bond unites all women who are fighting breast cancer as well as those who have already won.”It’s overwhelming sometimes,” said Bev Veals of Castle Rock, who was re-diagnosed with breast cancer in April and is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments. “But you’re not alone going through this, there’s help out there. You’ve got to reach out to others – they’ll be there for you.”Veals first beat breast cancer in 1999, and she has participated in 56 Race for the Cure events around the country in the last five years. She ran the Boston Marathon last April, seven days before learning her breast cancer had returned. But this time around, she knew there was help. “It’s like having a large family of supporters,” she said. “We cry together and laugh together. It forms a special bond.”There are times when my dad, my brother and I do not fully comprehend what my mom is experiencing, nor how to help her. Knowing that a large community of beautiful, caring, understanding women will always be there for her with open arms is incredibly comforting.Many women are forever changed by breast cancer, sometimes for the better, as the struggle to survive dwarfs all of life’s other challenges.”I don’t want to go through it again, but having breast cancer has changed my life for the better,” Rauwerdink said. “It has a profound effect on the way you look at life – it made me a stronger person.”Survivor Susan Whitney, who beat breast cancer 13 years ago and is an honorary member of the board of the Aspen Race for the Cure, said that she’s “on a mission to educate.””I do this so women will become aware of how important early detection is,” she said. “We know early detection saves lives.”Plus, I love seeing all my survivors in their pink shirts coming back every year, and they’re still running.”Someday soon, I know that my mom will be up there on a similar stage in her pink shirt, surrounded by those who supported her in the fight of her life.According to Leslie Waters, the president of the Aspen Race for the Cure, this year’s event raised approximately $130,000. Seventy-five percent of the money will stay in the Roaring Fork Valley to provide uninsured women with low-cost screenings, mammograms and treatments. The rest will be donated to aid national research.The inaugural Ride for the Cure, a 100-mile bike race, will be held in and around Aspen on Sept. 11. For more information, go online at http://www.aspenraceforthecure.com or http://www.aspenrideforcure.com.Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com

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