Sea Of Pink: Thousands Make Strides Against Breast Cancer

Duke Biology employee and 5-year breast cancer survivor Connie Robertson walks down the "Survivor Lane" after walking the 5K with her team.Duke Biology employee and 5-year breast cancer survivor Connie Robertson walks down the "Survivor Lane" after walking the 5K with her team.For a fifth year, Duke Cancer Institute teamed up with the American Cancer Society to serve as local presenting sponsor at the charity’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk held in Raleigh on Oct. 13.

Bright sunshine-y skies and cool temps greeted the sea of pink patients, survivors and supporters that flooded Midtown Park at North Hills starting at dawn — the hurricane two days before already a distant memory.

According to Tracey Smith, Making Strides organizer, this year's event attracted 6,500 walkers and raised more thn $400,000 to support the fight against breast cancer. Eight Duke Cancer Institute fundraising teams made up of 99 DCI staff, patients, survivors and supporters, raised more than $7,000 of that total.

Hundreds of participants stopped by the DCI booth to pose for photos in hot pink feather boas, sunglasses and hats, pick up free lunch bags and lip gloss, and greet the Duke Cancer Center Durham and Duke Cancer Care Raleigh team captains — breast surgeon Jennifer Plichta, MD; radiation oncologist Rachel Blitzblau, MD, PhD; and breast surgeon Gayle DiLalla, MD. There were also many hugs to be had.

“On behalf of DCI, I’d like to thank the American Cancer Society for this wonderful event that brings our community together to remember people we’ve lost to breast cancer, celebrate survivors of breast cancer, raise awareness, and raise funds to continue the important missions of education, reducing risk, supporting cancer patients and doing research,” said Blitzblau, taking to the event stage with emcee Russ Bowen of WNCN.

She went on to thank the American Cancer Society for the free rides to treatment that many of her patients receive and for funding important research at Duke.

“We have a lot of research ongoing, both in the area of developing new treatments as well as thinking about minimizing treatments for people with early stage breast cancer; doing less surgery, less radiation, or maybe none at all,” said Blitzblau.

Connie Robertson, a collections manager at the Duke Herbarium, Duke University Department of Biology, proudly joined other survivors in the "survivor lane" 5K finish line. Her Stonehendge Pink Team of seven raised, in her honor, more than $1300 for the American Cancer Society.

“Five Years Strong! Living cancer free! Come celebrate with me!” Robertson had encouraged on her Making Strides fundraising page. “Help me to make a difference and to honor those touched by breast cancer by raising funds for groundbreaking research and services for people dealing with breast cancer.”

First-time Making Strides team Duke Cancer Institute Finance Warriors, led by Sharon Watson Evans, raised nearly $1300, beating their goal of $500.

“All you have to do is ask, don’t be shy,” Evans said, explaining her simple strategy of reaching out to colleagues and friends.

Evans walked the 5K, including “wow, the hills” and, in an e-mail on Monday, thanked her team of 13 and 35 additional donors for “all they gave.”

“The Making Strides of Raleigh cancer walk that was held this weekend was a success and we had so much fun!” she wrote. “We witnessed courage from ladies and men that are fighting this monster and it was unbelievable! Cannot wait for next year.”

Even though the event has ended, there’s still time to support the Duke Cancer Institute Making Strides teams: Duke Cancer Center Durham, Duke Women’s Cancer Care Raleigh, Team Sandra, Team Gabriela Silang Society, Research Boo Bees, Duke Cancer Institute Finance Warriors, Duke Tumor-nators.

Circle photo (top): Alicia Barfield, Duke Raleigh Hospital, and her sisters from Sigma Tau Omega Chapter is Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.