October brings a pop of color, and we’re not talking about the brilliant reds and oranges of autumn leaves. Breast Cancer Awareness Month puts pink on display on store shelves, sports fields, skyscrapers and everything in between.
The October focus on breast cancer acts as a 31-day reminder to women to take care of themselves and make their health a priority. It also gives us at MetroFamily an opportunity to tell you how you can contribute to the cause, support friends and family who have struggled with the disease and encourage you to get and stay healthy.
One way we’ve already motivated area women to stay healthy is by designing our Strong Together program, which will end with the Susan G. Komen Oklahoma City Race for the Cure (learn more at www.metrofamilymagazine.com/fitness). Participating in the Race for the Cure on October 18 is just one of the ways you can give to the cause. Lorna Palmer, executive director of Susan G. Komen Central & Western Oklahoma, said she expects about 10,000 people to run in the October 18 event, but hopes many more who cannot give their time will put some money behind other fundraising efforts.
Susan G. Komen Central & Western Oklahoma partners with some area organizations to help raise funds. Of the money raised, 75 percent stays in the Oklahoma City community and goes toward education, screening and treatment. The other 25 percent goes directly into research.
This year, area businesses that have partnered with Susan G. Komen range from big banks to barbecue joints:
- Stop at Panera Bread and purchase a Pink Ribbon Bagel in October and $.25 will go to the breast cancer awareness effort. Purchase it on October 15 and 100 percent of the purchase price is donated to the cause.
- Grab a pink and black collector cup at Billy Sims Barbecue in October and the restaurant will donate $.75 to the organization.
- Visit Kickapoo Casino in October and you’ll be presented with a variety of ways to give back while you play, including donating your casino points to the cause.
- A partnership with Dillard’s and Wacoal bras gives you a chance to donate while you shop. Shop select days and times and Dillard’s will give $1 for every shopper who does a bra fitting and $2 for every Wacoal bra purchased. Shop from 10am-5pm at the Dillard’s at Quail Springs Mall on October 23, the Sooner Mall location on October 24 and the Penn Square Mall location on October 25 for the donations to be made.
- If you bank with MidFirst Bank, get the Pink Ribbon bank card and MidFirst will donate to the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center for breast cancer research.
The annual Race for the Cure not only raises awareness and funds for the cause, it encourages women and families who have been impacted by breast cancer. Local mom Teresa Hicks is a two-time breast cancer survivor who will complete the 5K this year to honor women currently fighting the battle that’s behind her. She hopes it will be a reminder to all women that early detection is important and that it requires regular attention to personal health.
Women, especially after marriage and motherhood, are notorious for taking care of everyone else but themselves. Hicks knows that all too well.
“I spent my life running my body down. As women, we’re the last ones to take care of our health. We should be the first because we’re taking care of everyone else,” she said. “I didn’t think about myself until I took my bra off one day and thought, ‘what the heck? That’s blood.’”
That was a little more than two years ago. The 53-year-old mother of three faced the cancer head-on with a bilateral mastectomy followed by chemotherapy. Within nine months of her diagnosis, Hicks was overjoyed to finish treatment.
“I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to be that sick, tired or scared every again,’” she recalled, “but we don’t always get what we want.”
About eight months after the initial PET scan showed no sign of cancer, Hicks was given news her cancer was back. She recalled the day she found out, saying she had a good, long cry before facing 42 straight days of radiation followed by more chemotherapy.
“If there’s anything worth fighting for, it has to be your life,” she said. “I had people telling me, ‘I don’t think I could do this’ but you have two choices: you either do it and you live or you don’t and you might not survive.”
Hicks said she relied on humor to get through the treatment. Reruns of I Love Lucy, Seinfeld and The Beverly Hillbillies brightened her days and she worked to put her old struggles in perspective.
The upcoming 5K will be the longest walk she has ever done and she’s looking forward to pounding the pavement as a way to make women more aware of self-care. She’ll be participating in the 5K alongside a few dozen other inspirational women who have joined the MetroFamily Strong Together program to work toward healthier lifestyles. These women understand the tendency to put their own health last, but also realize how valuable their health is to the rest of the family. They committed to eight weeks of training to prepare for the 5K and have made incredible strides in their journeys.
One of those Strong Together participants is Georgeanna Johnson, who was featured earlier this year on the ABC show Extreme Weight Loss. She shed 165 pounds on the year-long show.
A pastor’s wife with two kids, Georgeanna said she watched her weight climb over the years as she dedicated her time to sports games for her kids and making sure the needs of everyone around her were met. Looking back, she can see she wasn’t doing her family any favors.
“I don’t think it’s selfish to take care of your own basic needs. Being healthy for your own family is just as important as running them to practice,” she said. “You know, we fill our lives with all these busy things that feel important. At the end of the day, your health is important. Those things are not going to be there forever. And most of us want to be here as long as we can. If we don’t take the time now, at some point you’re going to lose that time.”
Her perspective on weight loss is insightful because she has been on both sides of the fence. She regrets the time she spent not caring about her personal health. Looking back, Georgeanna said she knew she was making excuses and claiming to be okay with being a “fat and happy” mom instead of setting a good example for her kids.
“I don’t think anyone is fat and happy,” she said. “I think like me, they mask what they’re feeling inside but at the end of the night, you lay your head down and if you’re extremely overweight, it’s troublesome. I don’t think anyone can be happy with themselves at that weight. I know what it feels like to be successful, but I also know what it feels like to be stuck and not try for 20 years like I did.”
Being featured on Extreme Weight Loss was what lit a fire under Georgeanna to make a change. She said it was the realization she had kept her promises to everyone but herself that really changed her life.
“Women tend to keep their promises to their children, families, churches, jobs,” she said, “but they don’t allow themselves to keep the promise that they’re going to get up and work out, follow a program or eat right.”
Strong Together and the Susan G. Komen OKC Race for the Cure are two great opportunities to jump into a commitment to get healthy. For people like Teresa, participating in the race is a reminder of support and a beacon of encouragement. For your family, participation could mean they get a happier, healthier parent.