Fighting back against cancer offers hope

While I’ve never heard the words, “You have cancer,” I know how devastating they can be.

On Saturday, more than 3,000 people — many dressed in pink from head to toe — gathered near Heinz Field to fight back against breast cancer and help to eliminate that dreaded phrase.

It was Pittsburgh’s first American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event, and it raised about $150,000 for research, education and survivor programs, such as the organization’s “Look Good…Feel Better” service that provides wigs and makeup tips to survivors.

I was among those who made a pledge to fight breast cancer, sans much pink attire.

Roars of applause for mothers, grandmothers, co-workers and friends could be heard across the North Side as I walked with fellow members of the Trib Total Media team.

I had the chance to talk with some survivors who were surrounded by loved ones. The women all seemed honored by the support offered to them — even from complete strangers.

But as I’ve learned in the nearly 14 years I’ve spent volunteering for the American Cancer Society, those affected by cancer are not strangers. Anybody touched by cancer instantly can relate — whether through their own battle or watching someone they love fight.

WPXI-TV anchor Peggy Finnegan and reporter Timyka Artist were among those participating as survivors. Each shared their story and offered a message of hope to other survivors.

More than 192,000 new cases of breast cancer were expected last year, and more than 40,000 women were expected to die from breast cancer, according to information from the American Cancer Society.

But those numbers didn’t matter to the throngs of people taking part in the event.

It was the second time this month I was part of such an inspirational and emotional group. Earlier this month, I spent three days in Lancaster, Pa., for the annual state Relay For Life conference, where I met hundreds of survivors and caregivers.

There’s no doubt cancer has touched almost everybody’s life in one way or another, but millions of survivors, caregivers, researchers and volunteers know that through hope anything can be accomplished.