Personal Stories, Global
By: Susan G. Komen
Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® series raises significant funds and awareness for the breast cancer movement, celebrates breast cancer survivorship, and honors those who have lost their battle with the diseases. Survivors around the world proudly wear pink Race shirts and become advocates for themselves and others who have been diagnosed. Even though talking about the disease is still taboo in many ethnic groups, women are starting to acknowledge publicly their survivorship at Race for the Cure events. By doing so, they are dispelling myths about breast cancer and have become ambassadors for the cause.
During the month of September, several of our international Susan G. Komen Affiliates and nonprofit partner organizations in Europe celebrated local survivors at five Race for the Cure events in Europe. Races took place in:
- Brussels, Belgium September 7, 2014 (NEW Race) by Think-Pink
- Bologna, Italy September 28, 2014 by Susan G. Komen Italia onlus
- Athens, Greece September 28, 2014 by Alma Zois
- Frankfurt, Germany September 28, 2014 by Susan G. Komen Deutschland e.V.
- Antwerp, Belgium September 28, 2014 by Think-Pink
The Race series is a catalyst for empowering survivors to speak out, share their personal stories and give hope and strength to others. In today’s blog, meet Irini, Martine, Iris, Lucia, and Liliane - five amazing European women who have inspired us with their strength and determination to help others win their fight against breast cancer.
Meet Irini from the Athens Race in Greece
“I was 32 years old when I got the shocking diagnosis “breast cancer.” My life had been full of dreams about love, marriage, children,… dreams about a happy and prosperous future. Suddenly my life was full of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty about the future. Time seemed to stand stil. I just stood there… waiting for my execution. I didn't have a family of my own. My parents and my friends tried to help. My beloved dog gave me strength to fight for my life because she would not have been able to understand if I abandoned her. I endured a mastectomy, a breast reconstruction, 6-months of chemotherapy, 2 years of menopausal injections and 4 years of hormonal treatment.
A few months after my diagnosis a friend introduced me to the Panhellenic Association of Women with Breast Cancer - Alma Zois. I met survivors of 20 years and received psychosocial support from professionals. Slowly but steadily all my questions were answered. Why me? Why now? What’s next? I was strong before and I thought I could deal with this on my own but with peer support, things were easier. Two years later, I was professionally trained to become a volunteer, offering the same support to newly diagnosed young women. At the same time I started attending European Conferences and meetings.
At that time of my life – after all the chemo, induced menopause and hormonal therapy - I had given up hope for a child of my own. I focused on myself and had a man in my life who wanted me the way I was. Pregnancy was a dream I felt like I had to give up after breast cancer. 9 months after I stopped all medications a miracle happened! I got pregnant and exactly 6 years after my diagnosis, I gave birth to my healthy little girl Iris Hope who is now 7 years old. She keeps me motivated and gives me strength to carry on. I am cancer free now but have to take good care of my health to be there for her, raise her and watch her become a beautiful and strong woman. That is my desire, that is my dream. Healthy lifestyle, frequent screening tests, a positive attitude and a bit of luck… all I want is to stay alive for my little girl!
The Greece Race for the Cure began 5 years ago. I was at the first event with my 2-year old daughter and we have been a part of it ever since. She knows everything about my illness, how I sacrificed my breast in order to save my life. How many pills I have swallowed, how many injections I have endured and how important it is to follow doctors’ orders. She knows that her name – Hope - represents all young women with breast cancer who hope to have a baby someday. Each year, when she gets up on stage at the Race, she feels proud of her mommy, proud and thankful that she was born.”
Meet Martine from the Antwerp Race in Belgium (shown to the left in photograph)
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. During my treatment I received a lot of support from my sister Viviane. Just one year after my diagnosis, we trained together for the first edition of the Race for the Cure in Antwerp. The day of the Race all breast cancer survivors received a glass of pink sparkling wine, which I really enjoyed! Viviane was by my side and said she wouldn’t mind having a nice drink herself. In 2010, Viviane went for her routine check-up and was also diagnosed with breast cancer. She called me and said: ‘Next year, at the Race for The Cure in Antwerp, we will be drinking pink sparkling wine together.’ I immediately understood and vowed to be there for her every step of the way. We have been at all six editions of Race in Antwerp and are so happy that we have always been able to cross the finish line together. We give each other strength.”
Meet Iris from the Frankfurt Race in Germany
“When I discovered that I had breast cancer, I was 33 years old and only married for one year to my husband Uwe. We had so many plans for our lives together and were deeply shocked by the diagnosis. I was terrified of doing chemotherapy but realized I have to do everything I can to survive for my husband and my family. Together, Uwe and I went through the most difficult time of our lives but we grew closer than ever before and know that there is nothing in this world that can ever separate us. I want us to renew our vows soon to show Uwe how thankful I am for all his support. He is truly the love of my life.”
Meet Lucia from the Bologna Race in Italy
“I still remember the moment when I received the diagnosis of MY breast cancer. I was sitting in the doctor's office desperately looking for a real-life remote control to rewind that moment and to erase those horrible words. That day was followed by a period of six months during which I had surgery, I was treated, I lost MY hair, MY eyebrows, MY eyelashes and MY nails. I was supported and protected by doctors and nurses and also by MY old and new friends and by MY family. I went through many bad times and I lived horrible moments but I also experienced a lot of good things.
I now have a visible and painful scar that reminds ME everyday how strong I AM. Since then, I have celebrated two birthdays: the second is the one of MY rebirth when I defeated breast cancer.
Pain can touch our lives in many ways but it all depends on how we react to it. This is the reason why, “I” is the word that best describes the strength of fighting MY breast cancer.
Meet Liliane from the Brussels Race in Belgium (shown to the left in photograph)
“As a breast cancer survivor, I want to do everything I can to fight against this terrible disease and help others be strong and always stay positive. I am now cancer-free but continue to fight alongside of my friend Cathy (to the right in the photo) and other women battling their cancer. Cathy and I had been friends for four years when she received her diagnosis. Facing the same battle deepened our friendship, we can always count on each other, offer a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. The sense of community among survivors at the Race for the Cure is inspiring and makes us stronger. I participate in all three Belgian Races (Namur, Brussels and Antwerp) and have now formed a support group and Race team in Brussels for my friend Cathy because I feel that together people are stronger. The Cathylili Team consisted of 63 people! I’m very invested in the fight against breast cancer and I’m always looking for ways to do more. Being a breast cancer survivor myself, I fully understand the challenges women are facing. Support of family, friends and other survivors is invaluable and sharing positive thoughts and joy with each other gives us the strength we need to keep fighting!”
To see pictures of our international September Races, visit the following websites:
Italy: Susan G. Komen Italia www.komen.it
Germany: Susan G. Komen Deutschland e.V. www.komen.de
Belgium: Think-Pink www.think-pink.be
Greece: Alma www.almazois.gr
Visit komen.org to find a Race near you.
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