Through the years many of my girlfriends and female acquaintances have fallen victim to breast cancer, but FORTUNATELY none of them were vanquished by the disease, but rather won their personal battle with the complicated <<grim reaper>>, taker of one or two breasts, enduring chemotherapy and the fear inside of them, that the cells will take upper hand and tip the balance of life and collect on the due date, ahead of time.
Hat off to all of them, I could not possibly imagine what they were going through. Not because they managed to “cheat” the disease, but because they managed to get through the whole ordeal and lead their lives with vigor and strength, not unfazed of course, but strong, dignified and by the grace of their personalities and sometimes with the support of their families and their faith.
Last week, I took part for the first time in “THE RACE FOR THE CURE” in Athens, Greece. Some of my friends had participated in the event last year and I felt bad when I saw all those pictures on Facebook, young and old, Greek and foreign. I had picked up some T-shirts in 2009 of the Rome Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, how could I have missed that???
This was the third year for Race for the Cure and its Greek counterpart Αλμα Ζοις. October 2nd, in the center of Athens, with according to the officials, more than 8000 people (starting numbers had been printed to that expected amount) .
It must have been a super word of mouth campaign, cause there certainly wasn’t enough advertisement on the radio or T.V. Many foreign schools and colleges sold the tickets to enter, for which you got a T-shirt, cap and starting number, all this for just 5 Euros. The money of course goes to the various breast cancer fighting/awareness programs in the country. But the turn out was incredible. Aside from the 8000 participants, and their family members who accompanied them, there were hundreds of volunteers, from the sponsors of the event, to ticket sellers, private organizations who volunteered their members to help out directing people, distributing water bottles, balloons for the children and cheering sections at strategic positions during the race.
My eldest college age son came home with his T-shirt and starting number a few weeks back and I told him, to get me and my youngest son one as well. Even my middle son came a few days later with his pack. It was to be a family event and I was talking to friends, so we could all meet up before and go together.
October 2nd 2011 was a glorious day, blue skies, big fluffy clouds in the sky, wonderful sunshine, but no heat. We, two of my sons and my Mom, headed off to the Center, took the Metro and already we were surrounded by fellow participants. Stepping out of the metro station at Syntagma Square, there were so many little groups of people, waiting to meet up with friends. Some carried cardboard signs with the names of the groups they were representing. Others had stickers on their RACE FOR THE CURE T-shirts, stating why or for whom they were participating. There were hundreds of women who wore pink shirts with the word SURVIVOR on it. It was an amazing feeling to be part of such a large group, gathered for the same purpose.
We were waiting for the rest of our party to arrive and kept running into other friends. Most interesting, I found the fact that so many young people, from 14 to 25 were present, not just the new moms with the prams and the grandparents, nor the most affected by the disease age group, and many, many men. It was not a woman’s’ event….even the (stil)l macho Greek man was out in large numbers. The atmosphere reminded me a bit of the spirit of the Athens Olympic games in 2004, all for one and one for all. It was truly moving.
The race itself was not really that important to most, to be there and take part was the idea. The options were a 2 kilometer walk around central park of Athens, called Zappion, past Syntagma Square, the Greek Parliament and the Presidential Palace and Residence. (Hence the photos of the Evzone guards). My older sons opted for the 4 kilometer race to the Hilton Hotel and back to Zappion. My little one and I walked and enjoyed the totally car free streets, which of course was a hassle for Sunday traffic, Athenians escaping their “cement surroundings” who had to pay the price.
For next years’ event, I am thinking of volunteering, helping to advertise, promote and convert the people in my neighborhood. Even if you know no one personally, who has stood her ground against breast cancer – awareness, prevention and compassion are powerful allies in the fight against this disease.