I put the phone up to my ear, the laughter of my friends echoing in the background over the familiar sounds of the musical White Christmas. It was my mom. She sounded cheerful, but I could tell something wasn't quite right. The rest of the conversation is a bit of a blur. Something about the doctor. Test results. Biopsy. Early stages. Cancer. No matter what qualifying words come before it, that word has a way of making your stomach drop.
I was just a teenager. I was pretty sure this kind of stuff wasn't supposed to happen to my family yet. For the next few months, I helped her make the hour drive to her daily radiation appointments. Since it was detected so early, her treatment wasn't as rigorous as it could have been. But there were still difficult days, when the traveling and the treatment took a toll on her, physically and emotionally. I still remember celebrating her last day of treatments, with a very large ice-cream sundae of course. 11 years later, she is a survivor. And that's something worth celebrating.
Mary Alfrey, executive director for the Ozark affiliate of Susan G. Komen, says that's what the Race for the Cure is all about, "I've been diagnosed myself, and I'll be through my treatments on race day. So I think it will truly be a celebration, which is what we want it to be... for the survivors and their families, of all they've been through." This year's race will take place April 26, at the Pinnacle Hills Promenade Mall.
Mary explains how the race helps to directly support women who have been diagnosed in Northwest Arkansas, "The monies that are raised that day come back in the form of treatments, screenings, education... everything from transportation to appointments. So everything that's raised on race day, you can be assured will help your friends and your family members."
If there's one thing Mary could share with women, it would be the importance of keeping up with their regular screening, "Don't let it get behind you. Mine was caught so early, I have a great prognosis."
Through this process, Mary has also experienced for herself the importance of having a support network. "I've been amazed at the people God's put in my life to help me down this path. From the professionals, to the survivors, to my staff. Everyone has contributed in some way that's given me the strength and determination and the courage to go through this, and in turn I know that I'll be able to help others when they're diagnosed."
Last year Keri and I, along with an amazing team of prayer volunteers, had the opportunity to talk and pray with survivors and their families after they crossed the finish line. We're excited to be there again this year, and we would love for you to stop by and see us!
Visit Komen's website to register for the upcoming race on April 26th!