BANGOR, Maine — Everyone who participated in the 15th annual Susan G. Komen Maine Race for the Cure on Sunday had a story to tell about breast cancer.
Nancy Stanley, who is from Southwest Harbor, told a survivor’s story about battling the deadly disease that took the lives of her two sisters.
Others, like Union resident Garrett Morrison, talked about the loss of a cherished loved one and the need to tell others to get tested early.
All the stories honored those who are gone and stressed the need for research funding to fight the cancer that threatens one in every eight women.
“We’ve got to find a cure,” said Morrison, who was married to his wife, Thomasine, for 45 years until breast cancer took her life last year.
His adult daughter and son and three grandchildren were at his side Sunday morning at the event on the Bangor Waterfront. Morrison said he believes his wife knew there was a problem long before she was diagnoses five years ago, but did nothing because “she felt if you don’t notice it, it will go away.
“If you have an inclination or a doubt, don’t wait five years to find out,” he stressed.
By the time his wife was diagnosed, she had stage 4 breast cancer. She was a strong woman who fought her cancer bravely for half a decade, but lost the battle last October.
“Early detection is key,” he said.
Morrison and his family — wearing white supporter T-shirts with pink lettering — joined a sea of more than 5,000 men, women and children wearing pink items as they ran, walked or cheered from the sidelines of the race route. Survivors wore pink shirts.
The first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was held 28 years ago in Dallas, Texas, and Bangor’s first race was held in 1997. Since then, the Maine Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure has raised more than $2 million for “breast cancer screenings, education and treatment programs right here in the state of Maine,” said Denise Hodson, cancer survivor and co-chairwoman of the local Komen event.
Sunday’s event raised in excess of $300,000, said executive director Sally Bilancia, who added that additional funds are expected to keep rolling in for the next month.
A portion of the funds raised have supported the national Komen for the Cure Awards and Research Grant Program, which funds research to find a cure, Hodson said.
Just before Sunday’s race, a moment of silence was held for those who have died of breast cancer, and after the race an inspirational and emotionally moving survivor ceremony was held at the waterfront stage.
Stanley, who is a double breast cancer survivor, brought along her daughter, Kristina Stanley, daughter-in-law, Charlene Stanley, and three grandchildren under the age of 16 months, to this year’s Komen race, which is an annual event for her. All are from Southwest Harbor.
“I have breast cancer and I have two sisters who have died from breast cancer,” she said, explaining why the Race for the Cure is so important to her.
One sister, Joyce Mahler, died in 1984 at the age of 32 and the other sister, Bea Desjardins, passed away less than two weeks ago.
“That was very hard, but it’s all the more reason to be here,” she said.
With breast cancer running rampant in the Stanley family, Kristina Stanley said she is taking no chances and gets tested regularly. She and Charlene Stanley also said that even though their daughters are only infants, it’s never too early to start educating them.
“She needs to be aware,” Charlene Stanley said.
Times have changed significantly since she first found out she had the disease, said Nancy Stanley, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997 and again in 2000. Before her cancer was found, she went to the doctor three times only to be told the lump in her breast was “just moosh.”
“Be persistent,” she said. “If you feel anything that doesn’t feel right, insist on having it tested.”
And don’t give up hope, even when the diagnosis is bad, Stanley stressed.
“My sister Bea was told to go home to die 17 years ago,” she said. “She was told she only had 30 days to live.”
The sisters got a second opinion and Bea Desjardins was treated for her breast cancer and survived until only recently, Stanley said.
“That’s amazing,” she said.
Her advice to herself and other cancer survivors is: “Do not stop. Keep going for it. Keep on going.”
For more information about breast cancer or to get involved, visit the Maine chapter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation website.