Walking the walk for breast cancer

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I don't know what people with other diseases do to cope, but those who've been affected by breast cancer -- they walk. A close relative of mine is a survivor, and last weekend my wife did the San Diego Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk in her honor. It ain't no walk in the park, neither: you walk 20 miles a day for three days, camp in tents at night and there are hills a-plenty. (But hey, blisters don't need chemo. Hence one of the 3-Day's official rules: "no whining!") As someone who maybe walks 60 miles in a year, I was truly humbled watching 4,500+ women (and a few valiant dudes) walk, and sometimes hobble, across the finish line, many overcome with emotion, having collectively raised $12.3 million for breast cancer research. Today I'm sharing some of my photos from the event, along with some facts about breast cancer.

"¢ Women in the United States have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer during their lifetime, and a 1 in 33 chance of dying from it.
"¢ The patron saint of breast cancer is Saint Agatha of Sicily.
"¢ William Stewart Halsted pioneered the mastectomy in 1882. His procedure, which became known as the Halsted Radical Mastectomy, was performed regularly into the 1970s.

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From the great history of breast cancer, Bathsheba's Breast:

In 1967, an Italian surgeon touring Amsterdam's Rijks museum stopped in front of Rembrandt's Bathsheba at Her Bath, on loan from the Louvre, and noticed an asymmetry to Bathsheba's left breast; it seemed distended, swollen near the armpit, discolored, and marked with a distinctive pitting. With a little research, the physician learned that Rembrandt's model, his mistress Hendrickje Stoffels, later died after a long illness, and he conjectured in a celebrated article for an Italian medical journal that the cause of her death was almost certainly breast cancer.

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A horror known to every culture in every age, breast cancer has been responsible for the deaths of 25 million women throughout history. An Egyptian physician writing 3,500 years ago concluded that there was no treatment for the disease. Later surgeons recommended excising the tumor or, in extreme cases, the entire breast. This was the treatment advocated by the court physician to sixth-century Byzantine empress Theodora, the wife of Justinian, though she chose to die in pain rather than lose her breast. Only in the past few decades has treatment advanced beyond disfiguring surgery.

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There was plenty of support along the way. My favorite sign, which I neglected to get a photo of, read "Stop the war in my rack!"

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Once known as "nun's disease" and widely considered a death sentence, today there are more than two million survivors of breast cancer living in the United States. Despite this good news, the number of cases of breast cancer -- especially in the Western world -- has been on the rise since the 1970s.

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As the walk drew to a close, participants raised their worn-out shoes in a show of solidarity and respect for the survivors among them.

November 13, 2007 - 5:11am
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