Exercise in Disease Management: The Future Looks Rosier after 39-Mile Trek

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

I’ve never been a big fan of pink. When I had my colors done in the eighties, I was informed that I was an “Autumn” and advised to pitch my pastels. But after participating in last weekend’s Avon Walk for the Cure in New York, I have proudly added to my wardrobe an assortment of t-shirts, hats and accessories in varying rose hues.

The neighborhoods and riverfronts of New York were transformed into a living ribbon of pink last weekend as 3,500 walkers covered up to 39 miles by Sunday afternoon. The shades of pink in evidence — blush, coral, flesh, flush, fuchsia, red, rose and salmon — were as varied as the ages, sizes and motivations of the walkers. But the triumphant walkers who filed into the closing ceremony at South Street Seaport were united in a solid field of fuchsia, the shade of the commemorative t-shirt handed to each finisher.

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month nears its halfway point, it’s gratifying to see so many local and national initiatives focusing attention on and raising funds for those affected by this insidious disease. During my 900-minute walking tour of Manhattan, 300 people were diagnosed with breast cancer, and another 65 individuals lost their lives to the disease. And as they told us at the finish, every walker has a story. I signed on to honor a friend battling the disease, as did many others. But there were hundreds of participants who walked in memory of family and friends.

This particular group of road warriors raised nearly $10 million for the cause, a record-setting tally for the Avon effort, which sponsors a series of weekend walks around the country each year. I’m proud to say I was part of the New Jersey-based “Clubs for the Cure team” that raised $500,000 of that total. The entire event was a study in organization, creativity, enthusiasm and emotion, from the themed rest stops to the choice of scented hand sanitizers in the porta-johns (Avon’s, of course) to the presentation of breast cancer survivors from 37 countries around the world. Along the way, we were supported by hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers who fed, hydrated, bandaged and cheered us to the finish line.

There is still much work and walking to be done until a cure is found. In the meantime, organizations like Avon are not only raising research funds but also underwriting the care and support of the medically underserved. Many of the grants to metropolitan medical facilities announced by Avon Foundation Executive Director Carol Kurzig at Sunday’s closing ceremony include funding to launch or extend patient navigator programs. The goal of patient navigator programs is to develop effective interventions to reduce cancer health disparities by facilitating timely, continuous access to quality, standard cancer care for all Americans.

I hope to participate again next year, and plan to take a few friends and sisters with me. And until they find a cure for breast cancer, I’ll continue to wear pink, even if it doesn’t look good on me. Because breast cancer doesn’t look good on anybody.

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